Civil jet aircraft imports help to erode trade surplus and fuel anti-European feeling

Exports fell faster than imports last year to leave the USA with a worse-than-expected aerospace trade balance, which is likely to fuel the growing election-year opposition to efforts by Europe's Airbus and EADS to increase their share of the US market.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) expected the USA to end 2003 with a positive trade balance of $28 billion, but now calculates that the final figure was $27.1 billion, a decline of 8.5% from 2002 and well down on the 1998 peak of $41 billion.

The USA trade surplus in civil jet aircraft, from business jets to commercial airliners, deteriorated even more steeply, dropping by more than 14% from 2002. Last year Airbus delivered 138 aircraft to US customers, including leasing companies, compared with Boeing's 131. Of the imported Airbuses, 118 were A320-family aircraft, which compares with the 82 Next Generation 737s delivered to US customers by Boeing.

US civil jet imports peaked at $12.6 billion in 2001, fuelled largely by deliveries of business and regional jets. The USA has no regional jet manufacturer and deliveries of Bombardier CRJs to US airlines last year helped Canada end France's six-year run as the largest exporter of aerospace products to the USA.

Imports from Canada were worth $7.7 billion last year, according to the AIA, giving the country an aerospace trade surplus with the USA of $4.6 billion.

France had a $2.5 billion surplus, based on imports valued at $6.3 billion. The largest export markets for US industry, meanwhile, were Japan at $6 billion and the UK at $4.8 billion, followed by France, Singapore, Canada, Germany and China.

In a speech before Congress earlier this month, Patty Murray, the senator for Boeing's home state of Washington, accused Airbus and EADS of "market-distorting, job-killing behaviour", including government subsidies, aggressive discounting and deceptive lobbying. In her speech, "Will the last aerospace worker leaving America turn out the lights", Murray called on the US government to make a trade case to challenge Europe's "failure to adhere to its treaty obligations".



Source: Flight International