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Airbus US boss demands end to WTO "histrionics"

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 18, 2007
The United States and European Union should abandon their costly WTO feud over aircraft subsidies and negotiate a new trade pact, Airbus's US chief said Thursday.

Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America, also accused US rival Boeing of using "offensive and totally inappropriate" tactics in a bid to win a lucrative US Air Force tanker project.

He said that then-Boeing boss Harry Stonecipher had pushed the US government into launching WTO action against the EU in 2004 as a "smokescreen" to divert attention from Boeing's own internal problems at the time.

"Finally the facts are coming to life," McArtor said at the National Press Club here, alleging that Boeing had received more than 24 billion dollars in US government subsidies "that are far out of bounds with WTO rules."

State support for the aircraft industry was "part of the DNA" on both sides of the Atlantic and would continue in some form whatever is decided by the World Trade Organization, the former US Air Force pilot said.

"Let's face it: if the WTO process plays out, we're going to end up negotiating something anyway," he said, calling for the EU and United States to update a mothballed trade pact of 1992 to detail their aerospace support.

"Why not skip the national histrionics and the lawyer-enriching trials and hearings and go right to the negotiating," McArtor said, while insisting that the EU and Airbus remained confident of their case at the WTO.

But this was unlikely to happen, he said, as long as Boeing is using the WTO dispute as the "centerpiece of their PR campaign" to win the refueling tanker deal, which could be worth up to 200 billion dollars.

Boeing is competing against a team comprising Airbus's parent company EADS and Northrop Grumman to build the KC-X, the US Air Force's next-generation tanker to refuel its fighter jets mid-air.

EADS says its KC-30 tanker, based on the Airbus A330 airliner, offers superior capacity for fuel, cargo and troops than the modified 767 that is being presented by Boeing.

If it wins the bid, EADS plans to build a large plant in Alabama that McArtor said would create thousands of highly skilled jobs in an economically deprived part of the United States.

He said that Boeing, instead of fighting the bid on its technical merits, had resorted to denigrating the technical know-how of the southern US workforce and impugning the reliability of America's NATO partners in Europe.

"Now that's totally out of bounds," McArtor said, after both companies touted their rival tankers at an aerospace industry conference held in Washington last month.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale rebuffed the attack from the top Airbus official.

"The point that was made at the conference was that whenever you start a new production line, there's always risks attached to that. Not that workers down there were not up to the task," he said.

Neale also insisted that no Boeing official had denigrated the industrial capacity of European NATO members to make a tanker plane.

"We have partnerships and suppliers in most if not all of the NATO countries. We would never have said that," he said.

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MEPs seek limits on aircraft emissions by 2010
Brussels (AFP) Oct 2, 2007
A EU parliamentary committee on Tuesday called for the European aviation sector to be included in its emissions trading market in 2010.

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