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China Says It Won’t Stop Airlines From Buying Airbus Planes

China’s aviation regulator said it hasn’t forbidden the nation’s airlines from buying Airbus SAS planes, two days after the aircraft maker’s parent said carriers may forgo deliveries to protest the European Union’s carbon-emissions tax.

The government won’t dictate the carriers’ purchases, Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said in an interview in Beijing. Airlines are encouraged to buy planes based on costs savings and increasing reliability and safety, he said in an interview.

China is among 27 nations that have said they will consider retaliatory steps following the EU’s cap on aviation emissions of carbon dioxide. European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. Chief Executive Officer Louis Gallois said this week China may refuse to accept planes from Airbus in protest at the carbon emissions tax.

“The purchase of airplanes is a business activity by airlines, in which the government doesn’t intervene,” Li said in an interview on the sidelines of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. “The government respects the companies’ choices, which are made based on their own needs.”

China has 35 A330s scheduled for delivery over the next few years, including 25 for which Airbus is already building parts, Gallois said on March 8.

Airbus is competing with Boeing Co. for the first sales of their in-development narrow-body jets in China, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market. State-backed Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China is also working on developing a competing jet.

European levies on carbon emissions from airplanes will cost Chinese airlines 800 million yuan ($127 million) this year, Li told reporters March 5 in Beijing.

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