European governments have blinked first in an aircraft-subsidies dispute with the United States, agreeing to withhold funding commitments...
PARIS — European governments have blinked first in an aircraft-subsidies dispute with the United States, agreeing to withhold funding commitments for a new Airbus plane set to be launched today while negotiations continue.
As Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space (EADS) prepared for a board meeting, at which it was expected to give the green light for the A350 jet, officials said no promises of government funding would be announced with the launch.
“The deployment of possible aid will not be immediate,” French Transport Minister Dominique Perben said in an interview in today’s edition of financial daily La Tribune.
France has agreed “in principle” to provide funding, Perben said, but the proposal is still “in the process of being examined.”
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The United States filed a World Trade Organization complaint last year against European subsidies to the Toulouse, France, plane maker. the European Union countersued citing subsidies to Boeing.
Europe’s conciliatory move follows warnings from U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman that any government aid pledged to the A350 — designed to rival Boeing’s new long-range, fuel-efficient 787 — would jeopardize attempts at compromise.
“Although we remain open to a negotiated solution to this issue, our negotiations will become much harder if the U.K., or any other EU member state, commits subsidies for the A350,” Portman’s spokeswoman, Christin Baker, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
But a spokesman for Portman’s EU counterpart, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, dismissed suggestions that the move would be seen as a European retreat.
“It’s an example of Europe’s continuing wish to be constructive,” spokesman Peter Power said.
“The European Commission continues to believe that there is a prospect of a negotiated solution to the dispute over civil-aircraft subsidies,” he said.
EADS refused to comment on today’s board meeting or the expected go-ahead for Airbus to begin taking firm orders for the A350, slated to enter service in 2010.
But spokesman Rainer Ohler said the company’s two joint-chief executives had “made it very clear that EADS is going to be very flexible” on government launch aid.
“We would never create a situation in which a negotiated solution would be excluded,” Ohler said.
Airbus has applied for about $1.8 billion from its supporting governments toward the estimated $5.3 billion program cost.