If there is one thing that the industries of the two largest aerospace markets - Europe and the USA - will be hoping for at this year's Farnborough, it is for their politicians to recognise the need to act in unison to overcome the political barriers to full globalisation of the aviation community. If they don't, and instead exit Farnborough still intent on pursuing their own selfish interests, the industries they purport to support and defend will be left with no choice other than to fight on. That, most will agree, is of no benefit to their long term prosperity nor that of the international community as a whole.

While visitors to Farnborough may marvel at the sheer size and power of Europe's new aerospace and defence conglomerates vis à vis their ever-dominant US counterparts, such parades of strength belie the realities with which all of their chief executives must contend. Even a cursory glance at their performance in the Flight International Top 100 reveals that the aerospace and defence industry either side of the Atlantic has a long way to go if it is to convince investors that it is a top performer ready to league with other industry sectors. And financial prosperity is their only guarantee of survival - something which both the EU's and USA's politicians would do well to take on board before they plunge their industries into meaningless clashes for the sake of parochial politics and power play. For the companies exhibiting at this year's show, their future relies upon an easing of the current trade tensions between the two continents, not a hardening of them, and a meaningful dialogue which enables them to compete on the one hand but also work together inside one another's markets on all levels and across all sectors.

So while Europe's renascent industry at this year's show will give visitors cause for renewed faith in its ability to both aspire to and achieve competitive strength through projects like the Eurofighter and A3XX, the behind-the-scenes tensions between the EU and USA over issues such as the hushkit dispute, government subsidies for aircraft development, airline access, technology transfer and transatlantic defence trade creates an unsettling undercurrent.

Likewise for US industry. Widespread consolidation and downsizing has forced it to internationalise its market base, with Europe key to its future. The very fact that the US Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has arranged for the largest ever delegation of US politicians to visit Farnborough so that they can experience at first hand the issues facing the industry is a sure sign that discussion - and mutual understanding - can be the only way forward.

Addressing together common concerns about safety, efficiency and the environment and ensuring that governments either side of the Atlantic invest in technology to meet the challenges facing international air transport can be the only way to break the logjam the industry faces. Once more, industry is trying to steer a path for the politicians to tread. The AIA's aim is to allow EU and US politicians to exchange views in advance of a new US presidential commission being formed to legislate on the future of the US aerospace industry.

The industry has already tried to solve problems which have dogged governments on a number of fronts. Companies have consolidated and rationalised - albeit within their own continents - to meet future civil and military aviation needs affordably. Airlines and airports have joined forces for an international agreement on aircraft noise reduction in an effort to resolve the bitter hushkit dispute that threatens the principle of a system of global aviation standards governing the industry. And US and European companies are campaigning for reforms to the US technology transfer regime which should allow them to share military technology to guarantee NATO nations an equitable and comprehensive defence and security capability.

Next must come a meaningful dialogue over how transatlantic industry mergers can be attained - something which will be crucial long term for the industry, and for the economies and populations they exist to serve and defend. Farnborough 2000 presents a chance for a truce, with the USA apparently ready to listen and be educated. Let's hope Europe's leaders will take notice and respond, holiday season or not.

Source: Flight International