Boeing says a five-year-old trade dispute about alleged Airbus subsidies is likely to be decided by a World Trade Organisation panel during the last week of August.

"If it slips, it slips by a week," says Robert Novick, an attorney acting as counsel for Boeing before the WTO.

Boeing has no knowledge of the WTO's schedule, but the panel's technical experts are now analysing confidential data provided by Airbus and Boeing - a traditional final step in the WTO's judicial process, says Novick.

The WTO is preparing a confidential interim report, the contents of which will leak to the news media "within seconds" of its resolution, he says. All parties in the dispute will then have a chance to comment on the report.

The WTO is expected to adopt a final report at the next meeting after the completion of the interim report, says Novick.

The results of the US complaint against Airbus will be followed six to eight months later by the results of a counter-claim filed by the European Commisson, he says. The European body accuses Boeing of benefiting from subsidies, mainly in the form of research and development assistance from NASA and the US Department of Defense.

Airbus disputes several of the points made by Boeing, saying it is unaware of the WTO's official timing. The European airframer also believes the results of the European case should be determined less than six months after the US report.

"Ideally, it would be more balanced if that gap would be smaller," says Airbus.

Boeing and Airbus also disagree about the latter's lobbying activities in the US Congress.

Ted Austell, a Boeing vice-president of government operations, says Airbus is "starting to walk the halls and drop paper around [Capitol] Hill about what this dispute means through their lens".

But Airbus's US office says it is unaware it has delivered new talking points to Congress. Boeing's Austell reiterates that the US wants European governments to stop providing aid to launch new aircraft in the form of interest-free or low-interest loans with relaxed standards for payback.

"We consider reimbursable loans are not subsidies," says Airbus, "and they are compliant with WTO regulations as well as being an excellent return on investment for the governments."

Source: Flight International