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Politics seen clipping wings of Hong Kong air show

Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, Feb 26 (Reuters) Strict limits on US and European firms taking sensitive defence technologies into China will hamper plans for a new Hong Kong air show, though burgeoning Asian aircraft demand will make it difficult not to attend, aerospace company officials say.

Defence heavyweights Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Europe's EADS and BAE Systems are among those packing up today at the end of the 13th and final Asian Aerospace air show in Singapore, which the organisers Reed Exhibitions, will move to Hong Kong next year.

The Singapore government has promised a biennial air show of its own beginning in 2008, triggering questions about how the already crowded calendar for international air shows may change.

''For us, it will be a matter of watching for signals from Beijing. If they make it clear that Hong Kong is an important event for them, we'll have to be there,'' said a spokesman for one of the largest US aerospace firms.

Another said China remained off-limits for US and European defence equipment.

''This is China we're talking about, of course. So you're not going to see an F-15 flying around,'' he said, referring to the US-built fighter jet.

Industry officials said the Hong Kong event could succeed by focusing on Asia's growing appetite for airliners and other civilian aircraft, which organisers Reed said they planned to do.

''This will be aimed at the commercial aircraft supplier chain.

It'll be a B2B (business-to-business) show, which is what industry is telling us they want, given the growth in the Asia-Pacific region,'' said Clive Richardson, senior vice president at Reed Exhibitions, a unit of Anglo-Dutch publishing firm Reed Elsevier.

An official at BAE, Europe's largest defence firm, said the company already took part in 15-20 international shows and was represented at another 100 or so in the United States, where it has several subsidiaries.

Still, she said, the Singapore and Hong Kong events could co-exist. ''The government relationships are important.'' Industry officials say air shows offer a chance to meet the dozens of senior government and military delegations that attend such events.

MORE REUTERS SB BS1151

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