Is today’s order by China aircraft leasing company ICBC for 50 Airbus A320s, 30 current engine option versions, and 20 new engine options or NEOs, a sign that Europe might be relenting on its tax on airliner emissions being applied to non-European airlines using its airports and air space?

Most of the world’s carriers, as well as Airbus, will be looking for further signs that this may prove to be the case after the announcement of this otherwise rather ordinarily sized jet leasing company order.

There are substantial orders for larger Airbus wide body airliners, mainly A330s as well as some A380s and A350s waiting in limbo for approval for purchase by China flag carriers according to Airbus briefings in the stand off by China over the imposition of the tax or levy on their flights to EU cities.

As Forbes recently noted, its the one trade dispute in which China and the US (and Australia) are all on the same side, and Airbus has made public in recent months its concern that massive sales of its airlines to China’s carriers are being held hostage to the EU shifting away from a unilateral to globally agreed position to deal with jet emissions.

The lease purchase papers were signed in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in the presence of  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China Premier Wen Jiabao among a number of Europe-China trade agreements that were finalised during high level talks on the Euro zone crisis.

In that context this partial thaw when it comes to Airbus sales in China is but a decoration around the edges of an agenda in which Europe wants Beijing to invest in the bond sales which are a plank of its current efforts to save its common currency, and China wants more from Germany in terms of meaningful action to restore stability to the value of its Euro holdings.

As of July there were 700 A320s in service with 15 China airlines, and the PRC is forecast by both Airbus and Boeing to need more than 2500 new single aisle jets before 2030.

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