Boeing has signed a contract with Copa Airlines of Panama to provide that carrier with 22 737-800 aircraft for $1.7 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The contract gives Copa the option to purchase 10 additional airplanes.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called the deal an example of the President Obama's National Export Initiative, as the deal will create 12,000 U.S. jobs while shipping U.S. products overseas.

Obama's initiative has a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

I would like to congratulate Boeing and Copa Airlines on this deal. The longstanding Boeing Company-Copa Airlines trading relationship is a textbook example of how mutually beneficial trade works, Locke said.

This $1.7 billion sale of 22 Boeing 737s is a good deal not just for Boeing or Copa Airlines, Locke continued. It is a good deal for the thousands of people in the U.S. who make the parts and assemble the airplanes and the people in Panama who operate the airlines.

With this sale, Copa will have purchased 55 planes from Boeing to be delivered in the next four years.  The U.S. aerospace industry, which supports more than 1.5 million workers, has produced a trade surplus of $31.7 billion for the first 9 months of 2010, one of the largest among manufacturing sectors, according to government figures.  

The United States and Panama enjoy a close economic relationship, with more than $4.6 billion worth of bilateral trade activities through September of this year, the Commerce Department said.