General Electric was granted its previously requested license by the US government on Tuesday, permitting it to supply its latest airplane engines to be used in China's new COMAC C919 passenger jet. According to reports, the license was issued by the US Department of Commerce with permission from the Trump administration.
The Commercial Aircraft Corporation Of China (COMAC) requested to use GE's engine earlier in the year. In turn, GE submitted a request for a trade license for its CFM LEAP-1C jet engine, which it wanted to ship to China. During that time, the US did not immediately grant the license, stating that it still needed to review the request.
As the tensions between the US and China started to die down, Trump had begun to express his supports for the cooperation between the two nations in the further development of the aviation industry. In February, Trump openly condemned a new proposal that would prevent US companies from supplying aircraft engines and other components to Chinese aircraft manufacturers.
In a tweet published on February 18, Trump stated that he wants China to buy US-build jet engines as it is "the best in the world." He added that he wants to make it easy for foreign countries to do business with US companies, including China, and that he has already relayed instructions to everyone in his administration.
Despite the improvements in the trade relations between the two nations, the US still has measures put in place to control the export of high-tech products to China. US companies are still required to have permission or licenses when shipping high-tech products to Chinese companies. Licenses, such as the one granted to GE, are typically valid for four years. The licenses also come with defined quantity and value that must be strictly followed to retain its validity.
The COMAC C919 aircraft is a narrow-body twinjet airliner developed by COMAC to compete with similarly sized planes produced by Boeing and Airbus. The Chinese firm began the development of the aircraft in 2008, producing various prototypes. COMAC launched the maiden flight of its latest model in 2017, with plans to have the plane go into service by 2021.
COMAC intends to use the US-made CFM LEAP-1C engine, developed through a joint venture between GE and France's Safran Aircraft Engines, for its fleet of new commercial airplanes. With the granting of the license, COMAC and GE should now be able to push through with their planned collaboration.