China placed an order for 88 Airbus A320 planes on Tuesday, putting a bubbling trade row with Europe over a proposed emissions scheme aside as it tries to to fuel economic growth.
Airbus said on Tuesday it had signed the deal with China Aviation Supplies and Industrial Commerce Bank of China.
The deal, worth USD$7.5 billion at list prices and with deliveries scheduled for 2012-15, was signed by Airbus president Tom Enders and CAS President Li Hai during a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The visit came days after industry sources said China had delayed the high-profile announcement of a USD$3.8 billion order for 10 Airbus A380 superjumbo jets at the Paris Air Show to protest over European Union emissions trading rules.
Under plans to include international aviation in its carbon market from next year, the EU would require all airlines flying to Europe to buy permits for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit above a certain cap.
While China continues to put the brakes on lucrative orders of European wide-body aircraft, industry analysts said it seemed as though China was pulling back from a full-blown trade spat to protect economic growth.
Although it plans to start competing with Airbus and Boeing by building its own narrow-body passenger jets from the second half of this decade, China is still ordering large volumes of Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s to feed huge traffic growth.
Ordering A320s is also in the country's interest as Airbus began assembling planes for the Chinese market at a factory in Tianjin, outside Beijing, in 2009.
While China typically schedules aircraft orders to coincide with political visits, the deals can be difficult to break down.
In November 2010, China and France announced 102 Airbus orders during a visit to Paris by President Hu Jintao, but the manufacturer said only 66 involved new contracts.
In January, China announced final approval for 200 Boeing aircraft worth USD$19 billion in a boost for President Barack Obama as Hu visited the United States. Again, analysts said the deals had been in the works and accounted for by investors for some time.
Tuesday's orders were all new and firm, Airbus said.