The chiefs of Airbus and Boeing Commercial Airplanes showed a clear inclination against upping the ante in the brewing war of words between the US and Europe over the issue of state subsidies.
Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard said he did not want a trade war to break out but said he was not prepared to let the Boeing attack go unanswered. Senior US trade officials have joined Boeing chief executive Harry Stonecipher in calling for an end to subsidies.
US regulatory agencies investigating allegations of "subsidies" to Airbus can visit any of the European manufacturer's plants to satisfy themselves that the allegations are baseless, said Forgeard.
"I would like to invite these agencies to meet us in Toulouse or Hamburg or Broughton and to talk to us and to talk to the American suppliers that we have," he said. "Our success derives from investment, productivity, technology and research. These are the reasons for our profit and I would like these agencies to see for themselves and to touch it."
Speaking just an hour before the Airbus chief, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Alan Mulally said he was "very gratified that the EU and US had started talking about this again", referring to US pressure on Europe to revisit a 1992 accord specifying launch aid limits for airliners. He said that European governments have since chosen to keep offering financial assistance to Airbus that did not comply with the "intent" of this accord.
However, "I don't think it will come down to a trade war because these are two very mature market leaders who want to work this out and I am confident it can be worked out," said Mulally.
Forgeard, who said he would rather "pay for aeronautical engineers than lawyers", said he reserved the right to react if attacked by Boeing, which has made the renewed allegations of unfair subsidies. Forgeard said the loans it received from states were at commercial rates of interest and are repaid.
And he accused the US manufacturer of launching the attack on Airbus to disguise the fact that it receives financial support.
"Actually, you could expect Airbus to raise this issue," he said. "The amount of tax relief in the state of Washington to Boeing was so huge that the American Taxpayers Association is formally complaining about it. The state of Washington was the biggest one but there are others such as Kansas and there are countries."
He added: "We have $3.5 billion of refundable loans [for the A380 programme], which we will refund fully as we have refunded fully loans for previous aircraft. These are fully compliant with the agreement between the EU and the US government.
"At the same time our competitor received about the same amount from the state of Washington as subsidy. So who would have grounds to make an attack? Our competitor or us?"
MARK PILLING AND MIKE MARTIN
Source: Flight Daily News