China's aerospace sector is taking off. Washington state has hundreds of suppliers - and many want in to that growing market. The state's Department of Commerce is more than a year in to a new push to promote them.
China has dozens of planes in development – among them, three major jetliners. The most talked about right now is the government-backed C-919, a single-aisle jet that is scheduled to enter service in 2016 and will be a direct competitor to Boeing's best-selling 737. Already, half a dozen small Washington companies are working on that program.
"But overall, it's really at the beginning stages," says John Evans, Washington State's trade rep in Shanghai. He was in Seattle to promote the sector to companies here. He says China is a huge market, full of opportunity. But he warns, getting into Chinese aerospace can take years of investment in the right relationships. And then he cautions, you have to be aware that you may be trading away your intellectual property.
"The Chinese aviation companies have stated that they're looking to transfer technology. So the real key for a Washington state company is figuring out if they want to play in the market first, how do they profit from that?"
Evans says if local companies want to make money, they should look for contracts that ensure payment of royalties – because Chinese partners are actively seeking technologies they can copy and manufacture at a discount.