Friday, April 26, 2013

Airbus subsidies - it goes on!

For those following the epic Airbus dispute (DS 316) at the WTO it seems to be a never ending case. From the Panel to an Appellate body decision and now to a lengthy compliance proceedings - the dispute has seen it all. The recent move of Airbus to locate a plant in the US does not seem to have cooled down tempers. Many have argued that only a political settlement between the two countries can end this long standing dispute.Apart from the legal intricacies involved, the case reiterates the role subsidies play in boosting industries - and subsidies are not limited to the developing world. it cuts across economies and geographies.


The latest oral submission of the US in the case at the WTO gives an overview of what the US feels are the subsidies Airbus receives. The submission made in the compliance proceedings is rather hard hitting so had to quote some of it here:
"1. What is most remarkable about this dispute is how little has changed in the last eight years. In spite of the longest, most complex WTO dispute ever, and the largest-ever findings of subsidization and serious prejudice, the EU has done nothing to change its WTO-inconsistent behavior. It has withdrawn only a few tiny subsidies, and has taken no meaningful steps to remove the adverse effects of the $15 billion in subsidized financing that it left untouched. And then, just as the original panel was completing its work, the EU granted Airbus more than $4 billion in subsidized financing for the A350 XWB with the same core terms as LA/MSF for earlier aircraft, and once again with a massive benefit. 

2. The market situation has not changed in a meaningful way, either. Where subsidies caused Airbus’s market share to skyrocket in the years leading up to 2006, they have allowed Airbus to retain that market share today. Thanks to subsidies, Airbus overcame major setbacks, including the A380 production and design flaws, the failure of its initial proposal for the A350, and the failure and premature end of the A340 program in 2011. Thanks to the EU’s relentless subsidies, the U.S. large civil aircraft industry continues to lose billions of dollars’ worth of sales and market share to Airbus every year.
3. Instead of taking meaningful compliance action, the EU seeks to convince the Panel that the same arguments it raised before the original Panel now justify inaction in the face of the DSB recommendations and rulings rejecting those arguments. Its arguments are certainly lengthy, but that does not mask their fundamental lack of substance. ..."
This case is not only a landmark case to understand the concept of subsidization under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures but is also a reminder of the fact that a dispute settlement proceeding need not necessarily offer immediate remedies of removal of subsidies that may be adversely impact one's industry.

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