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Wed, Apr 13, 2005

Fueling The Fire: France Weighs A350 Subsidies

Approval Could Trigger WTO Suit

French officials say they've received Airbus's application for an estimated $1.6 billion in refundable grants to develop its competitor to the Boeing 787 -- the A350. That could very well trigger lawyers who are waiting in the wings at the Word Trade Organization, ready to file the biggest trade suit that entity has ever seen.

"We have received an application from Airbus for support for the A350 in the form of refundable launch aid," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters in Paris. The application, he said, is "being examined in accordance with the usual procedures."

In Washington, the Bush administration -- prompted by Boeing -- says approval of launch aid for the Airbus A350 will indeed trigger a huge WTO lawsuit. The US contends launch aid to Airbus is hurting competition. Airbus has, for the past two years, led the world in commercial aircraft sales, taking the lead from Boeing. The Chicago-based aerospace giant says such would not be the case if the playing ground was level and Airbus didn't have government help to fall back on.

Europeans, on the other hand, have said Boeing gets even more government help than Airbus -- that coming in the form of tax breaks and incentive packages put forth by local governments trying to attract new Boeing manufacturing facilities.

There's no timetable for the French government decision on aid to Airbus.

FMI: www.boeing.com, www.airbus.com

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