Notification of a delay to a World Trade Organisation ruling on subsidies to Boeing has drawn complaint from Airbus on the same day that corporate partner EADS North America submited an 8,000-page proposal for the US Air Force tanker contract.

Chief executive Tom Enders says he is "surprised and disappointed by the last minute announcement", which postpones the ruling by two months, to mid-September. Nonetheless, he is claiming a vindication of Airbus's argument that "the complexity, inter-connectedness and industrial significance of the Boeing and Airbus cases would strain the capabilities of the WTO".

Last week, the WTO issued its final report on subsidies to Airbus. It ruled that a series of loans to the European airframer over the years - including reimbursable launch aid for the A380 and other infrastructure grants - broke international trade rules, but did not establish that the funding caused "injury" to the US aerospace industry.

Boeing's supporters in the US Congress have seized on the WTO ruling against Airbus to call on the Department of Defense to account for any perceived cost advantages in the EADS bid for the KC-X contract.

The USA initiated the case on Airbus subsidies in 2004, following its withdrawal from a bilateral agreement on trade in large civil aircraft. Europe then filed a counter case, claiming that US federal research and technology grants and funds from individual states represented illegal subsidies.

"Since these cases were filed, the world has changed," argues Enders. "In aviation, the previous duopoly marketplace is increasingly being populated by government-sponsored players, leaving Boeing and Airbus as those that, by any objective measure, benefit least from government support."

He expects the panel investigating Boeing funding to find that the airframer has "received billions of dollars in WTO illegal subsidies" and to uphold his assertion that the Boeing 787 "would not exist without government subsidies".

That view is echoed by Airbus North America chairman Allan McArtor, who describes Boeing's newest type as "the most highly subsidised aircraft in aircraft history."

On the delay to the WTO ruling, McArtor comments, "I think it smells like last week's fish," but adds: "I'm not saying WTO is at fault. The process somehow has gotten off track from where it was supposed to be."

Airbus has repeatedly asserted that the conflict can only be resolved through transatlantic negotiations.

"When the two WTO reports are published, those nations whose industries are building the aviation technologies of tomorrow can consider the WTO's views on the past to craft new market rules that efficiently guarantee fair trade, a level playing field and continuous technology investment," says Enders.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news