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Macron gets Canada to lift sanctions on Russian titanium to help Airbus - Reuters

Macron gets Canada to lift sanctions on Russian titanium to help Airbus - Reuters French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo: Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron personally intervened to persuade Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to exempt Airbus and other aerospace companies from sanctions on Russian titanium, according to Reuters.

According to sources close to the French leader, the delicate request was made during a phone call in March, a few weeks after Canada imposed sanctions on strategic metals, causing concern for the French company Airbus and others that still rely on Russian supplies at plants located in Canada or other countries.

A source familiar with the matter reported that Macron exerted "significant effort" to convince Trudeau to provide exemptions to European companies.

"Many messages were passed at all levels," the source added, referring to broad diplomatic and industrial pressure.

A Canadian source familiar with the issue stated that Macron raised the issue in a conversation with Trudeau on March 29, on the eve of the visit of French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who also addressed this issue during his visit to Canada.

At least one more European government expressed support for lobbying efforts, according to another source.

Initially, Ottawa stood firm but changed its policy within a few days, granting Airbus and others exemptions. The cancellation sparked a political dispute over sanctions policy and drew criticism from the Ukrainian ambassador.

Russian titanium

The Russian company VSMPO-AVISMA, supported by the state, is historically the largest producer of aerospace-grade titanium. Its strength and light weight make it ideal for components enduring the toughest loads, such as engine parts and chassis for large aircraft.

Disengaging the industry from Russian titanium and other critical minerals mined in countries like China proves challenging.

"The problem is a new titanium mill ... takes years to build and it could take a year or two to get certified," said Kevin Michaels, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory.

Although the West has intensified sanctions against Moscow, it previously avoided blocking access to specialty alloys and forgings from VSMPO, fearing harm to its aerospace industry.

Canada's unexpected decision to ban imports of VSMPO products coincided with the second anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and caught the aerospace sector off guard.

Tense calls to Ottawa began "immediately, literally the same day," reported another Canadian source.

Airbus found itself at the forefront. All the landing gear for the flagship A350-1000 aircraft is manufactured at a single plant in Ontario.

"Airbus was one of the larger voices lobbying, and they did it through the French government as well," said the first Canadian source.

Canada has not announced when the exemptions will expire, but a person familiar with the plan said the industries were given three years. Ukraine has called on Western countries to strengthen sanctions.

Some fear that the dispute with Canada may further highlight another dilemma for aerospace companies: complaints about sanctions underscore their dependence on strategic materials from exporting countries, which, in turn, may wield this power to strike back against the West.

Airbus is a major European aerospace corporation that specializes in producing aircraft, spacecraft, and other aerospace products. Founded in 1970, it has become one of the world's leading manufacturers of commercial aircraft. Airbus' headquarters are located in Toulouse, France.

Airbus has several plants and production sites located in various countries.