Airbus-Boeing spat turns surreal as US appeals own WTO 'victory'

London
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In a bizarre twist to a long-running transatlantic legal battle over government support for aircraft makers, the USA is appealing against the World Trade Organisation's ruling against state subsidies to Airbus - despite having hailed the judgement as a "landmark victory" in June.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is disputing two specific findings: that launch aid granted to Airbus was not part of an ongoing programme of assistance, and that certain launch aid contracts were not export subsidies.

Echoing its earlier response to the ruling, the USTR insists that the WTO panel "ruled in favour of the United States on most issues, and we consider its reasoning sound". But it adds: "The panel made two mistakes, and the United States is appealing these limited findings."

The European Union lodged its own appeal against the WTO ruling in July. It took issue with three findings: that Airbus A380 launch aid constituted subsidies, that Airbus support had brought serious prejudice to US interests and that infrastructure grants were forthcoming to the European airframer.

"This dispute is too important to allow the legal misinterpretations of the panel to go unchallenged," said EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht.

The case on Airbus subsidies was initiated by the USA in 2004, following a decision by the US government to unilaterally withdraw from a 1992 bilateral European Union-US agreement on trade in large civil aircraft.

The EU subsequently filed a retaliatory case challenging support received by Airbus. An interim panel report on this case is due in mid-September.