By Josh Horwitz
ZHOUSHAN, China (Reuters) – Boeing Co (N:BA) opened its first 737 completion plant in China on Saturday, a strategic investment aimed at building a sales lead over arch-rival Airbus (PA:AIR) in one of the world’s top travel markets that has been overshadowed by the U.S-China trade war.
The world’s largest planemaker also delivered the first of its top-selling 737s completed at the facility in Zhoushan, about 290 km (180 miles) southeast of Shanghai, to state carrier Air China (SS:601111) (HK:0753) during a ceremony on Saturday with top executives from both companies.
The executives, alongside representatives from China’s state planner and aviation regulator, unveiled the plane at an event attended by hundreds of people.
Boeing and Airbus have been expanding their footprint in China as they vie for orders in the fast-growing aviation market, which is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest in the next decade.
Boeing invested $33 million last year to take a majority stake in a joint venture with state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) to build the completion center, which installs interiors and paints liveries.
Chicago-based Boeing calls itself the top U.S. exporter and delivered more than one out of every four jetliners it made last year to customers in China, where it forecasts demand for 7,700 new airplanes over the next 20 years valued at $1.2 trillion.