Boeing Sells 737s to Copa in Record U.S.-Panama Agreement

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Boeing Co. secured an order to sell 61 737 single-aisle jetliners to Panama’s Copa Airlines in a deal valued at $6.6 billion, the largest commercial transaction between companies from the two nations as President Barack Obama attends a political summit in the Central American nation.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes will help Copa upgrade its existing fleet of older 737 models, the airline said Friday in a statement. For Boeing, the transaction would more than double sales of 737 Max planes so far this year.

The announcement was made as both Boeing and Obama look to Latin America to boost their fortunes. Obama lauded the deal at a signing ceremony in Panama for the Summit of the Americas, where his interaction with Cuban President Raul Castro is set to be a highlight of the event. Both Boeing and France-based Airbus Group NV have raised production of narrow-body aircraft, which form the centerpiece of most global fleets.

Obama and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela stood behind executives from Boeing, Copa and General Electric Co.’s aerospace unit as the order was signed. While they made no formal remarks, they chatted with attendees about the jobs effect of the deal.

The Max 8, the most popular of three versions of the new plane, has a catalog price of $106.9 million, according to Boeing’s website. The $6.6 billion figure is based on list prices, although airlines usually get a discount. Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx declined to discuss financing, including whether the U.S. Export-Import Bank played a role.

U.S. Influence

“Latin America is a really important region for Boeing,” Proulx said in a phone interview. “We definitely want to play a role in providing the airplanes to support their growth.”

Obama is seeking to reassert U.S. influence in Latin America and restore goodwill with many of the 35 nations represented at the summit, which in recent years has left the U.S. isolated over its policies toward Cuba. As the communist nation attends the gathering for the first time, Obama’s move to interact with Castro has won him accolades from other Latin American leaders.

Obama will have several opportunities to interact with Castro during the summit, beginning Friday when the heads of government are scheduled to attend an arrival ceremony, a ceremonial photo and a formal dinner on Saturday.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix the spelling of Boeing’s spokesman’s name.)

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