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WTO rules against EU in Airbus case

December 3, 2019

The US has said it may increase tariffs after the EU lost its case at the WTO. The US claimed that loans made by the EU to Airbus for the development of the A380 and other aircraft represented an unfair advantage.

Airbus Logo
Image: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday dismissed European Union suggestions that the bloc no longer subsidizes Airbus, the Europe-based multinational aerospace corporation.

As a response to the WTO's conclusion, the United States said it could impose tariffs on a broader range of European goods, as it seeks to assert its authority in the long-lasting dispute between the world's two principle constructors of airplanes — Airbus and Boeing.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the financial help the EU affords the European plane-maker does serious damage to the US aerospace industry.

In October of this year, the US imposed a record $7.5 billion (€6.8 billion) in levies on annual EU imports as part of its case against Airbus. The US placed partial tariffs on most jets from Airbus, as well as products such as cheese, olives and whiskey.

In Monday's ruling, a three-person panel rejected EU claims that a recent decision by Airbus to stop producing the slow-selling A380 meant the airliner could no longer be seen as a threat to Boeing, the American multinational corporation whose competing 747 faces falling demand.

The European Commission is considering appealing as it believes the WTO's findings contained serious legal errors.

History of the Airbus-Boeing dispute

The EU and the US have constantly claimed that each other's airplane manufacturer is unfairly subsidized.

It was the US that first filed a case with the WTO in 2006 claiming that Airbus, which is jointly owned by Germany, France, Spain and Britain's BAE Systems, had received $22 billion (€19.4 billion) in illegal subsidies. US officials estimated that the subsidies had resulted in an economic benefit of more than $200 billion.

The EU retaliated with a countercase, alleging that Boeing had received $23 billion in "trade-distorting" subsidies in the US mainly for its research and development projects. 

jsi/aw (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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