Vietnam may end up being the first export market for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' MRJ regional jet which is expected to be officially launched next week with a Japanese carrier as launch customer.

Vietnam Airlines says a deal is being negotiated between the Japanese aircraft manufacturer, the airline, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam and the Vietnamese government. The carrier says it is looking to order 20 MRJs and in return MHI is offering to shift some MRJ parts production to north Vietnam.

"Negotiations are under way and that is the proposal being made by the Japanese," it says.

Vietnam Airlines is interested in MRJs because the aircraft could be used on routes currently served by its 70-seat Fokker 70s and ATR 72s.

If the deal goes through it will be significant because currently Vietnam has almost no manufacturing for the aerospace industry. MHI is one of the main suppliers to Boeing.

MHI would neither confirm nor deny that it is speaking to Vietnam Airlines and discussing the transfer of some MRJ parts manufacture to the country.

But in January MHI's aerospace division established MHI Aerospace Vietnam at the Thang Long Industrial Park in Hanoi to manufacture flaps for Boeing 737s. Manufacturing of these parts is due to start between March and May 2009.

MHI has said repeatedly that it hopes to officially launch the MRJ programme at the end of the current financial year - 31 March - and that it anticipates at least one Japanese carrier as a launch customer.

All Nippon Airways is reportedly looking at ordering 30 MRJs and has said it is evaluating the aircraft and plans to make a decision before the end of March.

MHI plans to build a 70-seat MRJ70 and a 90-seat MRJ90, with the first aircraft entering service in 2012.