Boeing on Wednesday urged the U.S. to separate its disputes over human rights with China from trade, and warned it could be overtaken by its competitor Airbus if Boeing were locked out from the Chinese market.
Boeing’s Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit on Wednesday, "I think politically (China) is more difficult… but we still have to trade with our largest partner in the world: China.”
Boeing and its European rival Airbus each sell about a quarter of their jetliners to China, which is now the world’s largest domestic travel market.
China has expressed concerns about Boeing’s 737 MAX, which was grounded for nearly two years after two fatal crashes.
It was approved to fly again in November, but China has said it will take a “step-by-step” approach to approving the jet.
Western sources say concerns are growing that Beijing could be leveraging the approval process in a diplomatic standoff with Washington.
On Wednesday, Calhoun urged Boeing to be left out of bilateral disputes.
He said, “We cannot afford to be locked out of that market. Our competitor will jump right in."
Beijing faces tension with the West over its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang where activists say more than 1 million people are held in internment camps.
China rejects the allegations and has warned foreign companies not to step into politics.