May 15, 2018, © Leeham News: The World Trade Organization today issued its ruling on the European Union appeal of WTO findings that Airbus received illegal subsidies for its commercial airplane programs.
The WTO appeal decision affirmed that the A380 and A350 received improper subsidies. However, all previous Airbus aircraft have repaid subsidies or cured improperly low interest rates, according to a lawyer who has seen the decision.
A summary of the WTO decision is here.
A Seattle Times report is here.
“The A350 got included on an acceleration factor based on low interest rates,” the lawyer told LNC.
Airbus could have proceeded with the A350 without launch aid, he said the WTO concluded.
Airbus claimed 94% of the Boeing complaints were rejected on appeal or through the process, said the lawyer. Six percent of the claims were upheld, involving the A350 and A380. LNC has not done an independent calculation on these figures.
“Boeing is left with a real thin victory,” the lawyer said.
Ironically, the poor-selling A380 doesn’t leave Boeing with much of a victory even there. There have been only 331 sales since the program launch in 2000. (There were 265 orders for Boeing 747-400s, 747-8Is and 747-8Fs in the same period.)
Boeing’s prime target, launch aid, was not illegal, the WTO found. How it was implemented was improper. Airbus received artificially low interest rates and fees, which had to be reset to market rates.
Any effort by the US to impose tariffs must go through a three member WTO arbitration panel to set the amount of tariffs. This process may take up to 18 months., Furthermore, the tariffs don’t have to be imposed on Airbus products. More likely, they’d be levied on other industries.
The EU is prepared to retaliate if the US levies tariffs on Airbus airplanes. On the assumption the US appeal over Washington State subsidies for the 787, created in 2003, is denied, the EU would levy tariffs on Boeing aircraft imported into EU countries.
The EU is also prepared to refile its complaint of Washington tax breaks provided the Boeing 777X. These are an extension of the 787 tax breaks. A previous case was tossed out by the WTO on what the EU side claims were technicalities.
Airbus wants multi-lateral negotiations to reset all subsidy launch aid policies, including the US, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, Canada and Brazil. Boeing and the USTR have consistently rejected this call.
Airbus, as expected, claimed victory, saying the WTO dismissed 94% of Boeing’s claims and any remaining violations are minor and will be corrected.
Boeing, as expected, claimed a major victory and aid said billions of dollars in tariffs can now be imposed.
Airbus counter-attacked, claiming that the US appeal of WTO findings of illegal subsidies to Boeing amount to more than $20bn, costing Airbus $16bn in lost sales and $100bn in damage to world trade (witnhout specifying how).
Airbus says any effort by Boeing to have the US impose tariffs on Airbus aircraft will be counter-productive since Boeing’s violations are more egregious and subject to retaliatory tariffs when the Boeing decision comes down by the end of the year.
The Airbus and Boeing press releases are below.
WTO confirmed: no prohibited subsidies at Airbus, minor elements of actionable subsidies to be addressed
Amsterdam, 15th May 2018 – The WTO Appellate Body has published on the first of two rulings expected this year on subsidies in the large commercial aircraft dispute between the US and the EU. The first ruling is the Appellate Body’s final report on the EU’s compliance with previous World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) findings in the case against Airbus (DS316). The second ruling – dealing with Boeing’s case – is expected later this year.
In its report, the Appellate Body confirms the legality of the loan partnership approach between Airbus and European governments. The WTO Panel agrees further with earlier findings that the European repayable launch investment (RLI) loans for civil aerospace development projects do not constitute a prohibited subsidy and only few modifications are needed to achieve full compliance. The WTO has now dismissed in their entirety 94 percent of Boeing’s original claims.
The WTO confirmed that all aspects of the A320 and A330 programs are now in full compliance, and that only minor action remains on the A380.
On A350, minor elements of the RLI remain to be addressed. Airbus is currently implementing changes to respond to these findings. This means that any potential US sanctions, now likely to be minor compared to what we expect on the case against Boeing’s subsidies, could result to be counter-productive and ill-timed.
While Airbus is preparing to make adjustments to fully implement the WTO recommendations, Boeing continues to make its own subsidy matters worse with abusive Washington State tax breaks, bad for taxpayers and global trade harmony alike.
The Washington state corporate welfare scheme has provided record breaking state-level subsidies to Boeing for the launch of the 787 aircraft (US$5bn). A further State incentive package for the 777X valued at an additional US$8.7bn in 2013 made this the largest state-level subsidy package in the history of the United States. Boeing reportedly is also actively seeking further illegal tax breaks for the planned construction of the mid-sized B797 aircraft.
The second Appellate Body report later this year is expected to include the following:
Altogether, well in excess of US$20bn of non-repaid, illegal subsidies causing over $100bn in damage to global trade.
Such non-withdrawn subsidies continue to cause massive adverse effects in the form of lost sales for Airbus. The 787 Washington State tax breaks alone have been confirmed by the WTO to have caused Airbus to lose at least US$16bn in sales. The total amount of adverse effects, or lost sales to Airbus since the beginning of these disputes is estimated to be over US$100bn. Within the WTO’s Panel Report, published in 2017, the organization found issue with various Boeing practices, the most damaging of which continue.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders comments: “Today’s significant legal success for the European aviation industry confirms our strategy which we have followed over all those years of the dispute. Of course, today’s report is really only half the story – the other half coming out later this year will rule strongly on Boeing’s subsidies and we’ll see then where the balance lies.”
Enders continues, “The result is simple: Airbus pays back its loans, Boeing pays back nothing and continues to exploit the generosity of the U.S. taxpayer. Despite Boeing’s rhetoric, it is clear that their position today is straightforward healthy: they have half the market and a full order book, they have clearly not been damaged by Airbus repayable loans.”
Airbus General Counsel John Harrison added: “Airbus recognizes the importance of the WTO and the Appellate Body’s findings and will do what is necessary to correct any errors and this report confirms the efforts we are making. We likewise expect Boeing to take note when it comes to its compliance obligations. Boeing has in the past shown complete disregard by ignoring the recommendations and continuing with their illegal behavior.
And he further explained: “Boeing is now at more than 90% failed claims. This is proof of Boeing’s cynical PR motives in bringing this case about in the first place. It shatters Boeing’s claim it perpetuated for years that their WTO case undermines European industrial-government partnership.”
Airbus thanks the European Commission and the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain for their continuous support throughout the dispute process. “Airbus is grateful for the time and effort that has been invested in defending the interests of the aviation industry,” Enders stated.
Airbus calls for all parties to accept the global nature of trade and to put an end to the long-running, disruptive dispute. An amicable negotiation with no preconditions is the only viable solution, either between the EU and the U.S. or ideally a global agreement.
Commenting more broadly, Enders concludes: “The current geopolitical climate for trade is worrying, and industry players should not fuel it with unproductive disputes that undermine fair competition world-wide and impact the workers in this industry as well as our customers and operators. The consequences of such disputes extend beyond the aerospace industry and affect economic growth on a global scale.”
WTO determines EU has refused to honor rulings on massive European subsidies to Airbus
U.S. authorized to seek billions in retaliatory tariffs on imports from Europe
CHICAGO, May 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The World Trade Organization (WTO) today in its final decision found that the European Union (EU) has failed to honor multiple previous rulings and has provided more than $22 billion of illegal subsidies to European aircraft maker Airbus. After examining this case for more than a decade, the WTO has determined the EU must end its unfair business practices and remedy the ongoing harm caused by the illegal subsidies.
This landmark ruling by the WTO Appellate Body is the final decision in this case, which was initiated in 2006. Today’s decision ends the dispute and clears the way for the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to seek remedies in the form of tariffs against European imports to the United States.
The authorized tariffs are likely to total billions in duties per year, unless and until Airbus addresses the illegal subsidies it received from European governments for its most recently launched airplanes. It is anticipated that U.S. tariffs will be authorized up to the amount of annual harm this market-distorting tactic is causing. Tariffs could be scheduled as early as 2019. This is expected to be the largest-ever WTO authorization of retaliatory tariffs.
“Today’s final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies is not tolerated. The commercial success of products and services should be driven by their merits and not by market-distorting actions,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO. “Now that the WTO has issued its final ruling, it is incumbent upon all parties to fully comply as such actions will ultimately produce the best outcomes for our customers and the mutual health of our industry. We appreciate the tireless efforts of the U.S. Trade Representative over the 14 years of this investigation to strengthen the global aerospace industry by ending illegal subsidies.”
The U.S. government, with Boeing’s full support, has complied with WTO rulings stemming from the two cases the EU brought against the United States. One case has already ended in favor of the United States, and in the other, the vast majority of the allegations the EU made against the United States and Boeing were dismissed. Where there were narrow rulings against U.S. practices, they have been fully addressed to the WTO’s satisfaction.
Just one finding against the United States now remains before the WTO, which concerns a Washington state tax measure. It is under appeal and should be decided later this year or in early 2019. Boeing believes that ruling will be reversed, but if not, Boeing has pledged to do whatever necessary to come into full compliance in the interest of upholding rules-based trade, which is essential to fairness and the future prosperity of the global aerospace industry.