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Fri, Sep 17, 2010 - Page 10 News List

WTO said to rule against Boeing

AFP and Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner undergoes fatigue testing on a structural airframe in Everett, Washington, in the US, in an undated photo released yesterday.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

European leaders claimed victory on Wednesday after the WTO was said to have judged massive US subsidies to Boeing illegal.

The report, which has not been published, reportedly stated that billions of dollars in US aid to the aircraft manufacturer were illegal, prompting officials from the EU, France and Boeing’s arch-rival Airbus to claim victory.

“Boeing benefits from billions of dollars in government subsidies that have been judged illegal by the WTO,” Airbus spokesman Rainer Ohler said.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said the WTO findings “support the EU’s view” of the decade-long dispute.

The complaint was brought to the WTO by the EU, part of a long-running transatlantic spat over subsidies to the aerospace sector.

It came a year after the WTO rapped the EU for illegally providing subsidies to Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS).

Under WTO rules, the interim ruling is meant to be held confidential until the global trade body publishes the full report by its panel of dispute settlement arbitrators.

However, both sides were keen to spin their version of events as details poured into the public domain.

In a statement, Boeing said the WTO had issued a “massive rejection” of European claims that it received tens of billions of dollars in illegal subsidies.

“Nothing in today’s public reports on the European case against the US even begins to compare to the US$20 billion in illegal subsidies that the WTO found last June that Airbus/EADS has received,” Boeing said.

However, there was some hope that the ruling could pave the way for a deal to end the often bitter dispute over aid.

Airbus called on its US rival to end the row and negotiate new funding rules for the aerospace industry.

“Now that both reports are available, it’s time to stop blaming each other and to start assuming our responsibilities,” Ohler said.

“It’s only when we stop these contentious suits and start negotiations that we’ll be able to define new equitable rules of the game which will govern the future of the world’s aerospace industry, a matter which is much more important than a transatlantic ­dispute,” he added.

The EU likewise insisted that it is time to negotiate a settlement.

“Only negotiations at the highest political level can lead to a real solution,” EU trade spokesman John Clancy said, reiterating the EU position that the new report “provides momentum in that direction.”

In Washington, US lawmakers aligned with either Airbus or Boeing voiced divergent views. However, US trade officials insisted they have long been prepared to sit down with the EU to negotiate a deal.

“We were interested six years ago. We were interested four years ago. We were interested two years ago. And we’re still interested,” said Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative’s office.

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