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Obama backs Boeing in $21.7B deal

Attends signing ceremony, touts jobs in Asia being found for U.S. firms

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

President Obama, seeking to highlight the job-creating potential of his nine-day trip to Asia, attended a signing ceremony Friday for a $21.7 billion deal between Boeing and Indonesia's largest domestic airline.

The White House showcased the agreement for Boeing, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with the Obama administration's National Labor Relations Board over a nonunion plant, as one of the largest trade deals ever between the U.S. and Indonesia.

Boeing will sell 230 of its 737 commercial aircraft to Lion Air, a private airline established in 2000. White House officials said the deal will support more than 110,000 U.S. jobs and parts suppliers in 43 states.

Also during the president's trip, Boeing announced an agreement with Singapore Airlines for the purchase of eight of its 777 wide-body aircraft, a purchase worth $2.4 billion.

The NLRB in April filed a complaint against Boeing, alleging its motive in selecting a South Carolina plant for assembling wide-body 787 Dreamliner aircraft was to retaliate against union workers in Washington state for past strikes.

Boeing has denied the accusation, with CEO Jim McNerney calling the NLRB's action "a fundamental assault on the capitalist principles that have sustained America's competitiveness since it became the world's largest economy nearly 140 years ago."

A good deal of Mr. Obama's trip has seemed like an effort to mend fences with the aerospace giant. Mr. McNerney served as moderator for Mr. Obama's question-and-answer session with business executives at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii last weekend - an event at which Mr. Obama said U.S. policymakers have been "lazy" in recent years for not attracting more foreign investors to the U.S.

And now Mr. Obama became a cheerleader on the sidelines as Boeing used the occasion of his attendance at the East Asia summit in Bali, Indonesia, to tout its deal with Lion Air.

The Indonesian carrier, which operates an all-Boeing fleet, has options for 150 more planes valued at $14 billion, bringing the total potential value of the deal to $35 billion.

The president is under intense pressure to create jobs at home, and has been pushing for free-trade agreements with Asia-Pacific nations on his trip. With many of those efforts still in the talking stages, Mr. Obama showcased the Boeing deals and others at the conclusion of his trip for some tangible good news.

The White House also trumpeted a deal between GE, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt is chairman of Mr. Obama's Jobs Council, and Garuda Airlines of Indonesia for the purchase of 50 airplane engines worth $1.3 billion. Administration officials announced that Sikorsky, a division of United Technologies, will supply 12 Black Hawk helicopters to the Brunei Ministry of Defense, a deal worth $325 million.

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