The Airbus governments will wait until the World Trade Organisation issues its long-awaited ruling on aircraft subsidies before deciding on future funding options to support ailing European airframer Airbus.

Speaking at their traditional biannual meeting at the Paris air show, the French, German, Spanish and UK ministers responsible for aerospace confirmed that they would decide "before the end of the year" on options which, together with a capital increase and an enhanced research and development budget, could still see the controversial return of reimbursable loans.

While Europe may be forced to abide by a WTO ruling that halts aircraft development subsidies, Dominique Bussereau, France's transport secretary, insisted: "We do not have a problem with the principle of reimbursable loans."

The staggered schedule of the two trade disputes means there are six months between the final decisions of the two WTO panels - 19 December this year for the US case and 16 June next year for the EC case.

Bussereau said: "The French government has started to assess this issue [of funding options]. At the very latest, by the end of this year, we would hope to make a decision. We have left all options open."

"It is important that a budgetary decision is taken before the end of the year," said Spanish industry minister Joan Clos i Matheu.

"We would all like a decision to be taken swiftly," added UK industry secretary Margaret Hodge. "There is inevitably a healthy tension between Airbus's desire for independence and its wish for further investment for research and development. We have to form a proper understanding of the extent of Airbus's asks and the contribution it makes to our national economies."

Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois recently pledged to increase the aircraft maker's $532 million research and technology budget by 25% from 2008 in a bid to help find ways to reduce aircraft emissions.

"We need a clear research and development strategy for Airbus," said German industry secretary Peter Hintze, who added that this issue will be on the agenda at the forthcoming meeting in mid-July between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel at Toulouse.

"The question of the need for capital will be decided jointly," Hintze said, adding: "I would imagine that there will be different considerations in Germany and in France, but at the end of the day there will be a joint agreement which will maintain the balance between the two partners."

Source: Flight International