updated 11/19/2005 12:01:36 PM ET 2005-11-19T17:01:36

China will buy 70 Boeing 737 airliners, a U.S. official said Saturday as President Bush arrived on a visit expected to include discussion of Beijing’s surging trade surplus with the United States.

Mike Green, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, would not discuss the financial details of the airplane deal. Neither Boeing Co. nor the Chinese government made any formal announcement of the sale.

“It’s a very important thing and I think it’s a testament to how our approach to China is yielding real results,” Green told reporters traveling in China with Bush. “In this case, an order for 70 737 aircraft from Boeing.”

Beijing often announces large purchases of American airliners in connection with visits by U.S. leaders in an effort mollify Washington’s frustration over China’s trade surplus, which hit a record $162 billion in 2004.

It is expected to pass $200 billion this year.

China is a key growth market for Boeing and its European rival Airbus Industrie.

Boeing says it expects Chinese carriers to buy more than 2,600 new aircraft worth $213 billion as the country’s economy grows and more people travel. It says it hopes the single-aisle Boeing 737 jet, which carries about 150 passengers, will make up the bulk of China’s new purchases.

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