During Merkel visit, China buys Airbus jets worth $17B, agrees to foreign exchange venture

BEIJING, China – China has committed to buying 130 Airbus jets worth $17 billion during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also attended the signing Thursday of agreements between Nokia Corp. and phone carrier China Mobile Ltd. and between Volkswagen AG and a Chinese bank, ICBC Ltd.

The China Foreign Exchange Trade System and Deutsche Borse, which operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, also agreed to set up a joint venture.

Such agreements are a fixture of foreign leaders’ visits to China and are meant to emphasize the commercial benefits of amicable relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

The Airbus sale calls for China to buy 30 A330 jets and 100 A320 jets. Airbus has headquarters in France and Germany and employs 15,000 people at its German factory.

Merkel, who was on her eighth visit to China since taking office in 2005, endorsed the addition of China’s yuan to the basket of currencies used by the International Monetary Fund, along with the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen.

That change would have limited practical effect but is sought by Beijing as a symbol of China’s rising status in the global economy.

Merkel also said Germany wants to play a role in operating the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Berlin is a founding member of the bank proposed by Beijing to finance construction of ports, railways and other trade-related infrastructure.

The German leader said Berlin “would like to make our own contributions” to Chinese-led initiatives to expand trade links between Asian countries and between the region and Europe.