By David Shepardson and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Boeing Co <BA.N> to move quickly to resolve issues with the grounded 737 MAX, noting the planemaker’s significant impact on the U.S. economy.
Trump referenced studies that suggested the production halt of the 737 MAX could shave 0.5% from U.S. gross domestic product this year.
“Get that going. Work together,” Trump said to Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith at a White House event to sign the Phase 1 trade deal with China. “We’ve got to get that one moving fast and it’s going to be better than ever, I think.”
The Trump administration said China agreed to buy $77.7 billion in manufactured goods over two years, including aircraft, but did not disclose how much would be in new planes.
Chicago-based Boeing calls itself the top U.S. exporter. It delivered more than one out of every four jetliners it made in 2018 to customers in China, where it forecasts demand for 7,700 new planes over the next 20 years, valued at $1.2 trillion.
Aviation industry sources said Boeing was expected to win a major order for wide-body jets from China, including its 787 or 777-9 models, or a mixture of both. Such a deal could ease pressure on the 787 Dreamliner, which has suffered from a broad downturn in demand for large jets, forcing Boeing to trim production late last year.
China’s share in deliveries of Boeing planes fell to its lowest in seven years in 2019, Reuters analysis of Boeing sales data showed.
Boeing is halting production this month of the plane that has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Last week, Boeing’s biggest supplier, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc <SPR.N>, said it plans to lay off more than 20% of its workforce in Wichita, Kansas.
Trump said he had no doubt that Boeing’s new Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun would be able to turn things around.
“It’s not your fault. He just got there,” Trump said of Calhoun, a director at Boeing for the last decade who became CEO on Monday.
“You’ll straighten it out quickly please?” Trump asked Calhoun.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not expected to approve the MAX’s return to service until February and perhaps not until March or later, Reuters reported.
Boeing welcomed the trade agreement with China in a statement, and hinted at a possible order.
“We’re proud that Boeing airplanes will continue to be a part of this valued relationship, one that has fueled aerospace innovation and sustained manufacturing jobs,” Calhoun said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Shepardson; Writing by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher, Patrick Graham and Andrea Shalal Editing by David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot)