James Moore: No result in sight in aircraft grudge match


Outlook The US might have been out of the World Cup for nearly a week, but it scored a consolation goal against its European rivals yesterday. The World Trade Organisation (that's the body American administrators like to ignore when it rules against them) found that the EU paid illegal subsidies to its aircraft maker Airbus and ordered that they should be withdrawn "without delay".

The celebrations by America's trade representative, Ron Kirk, were rather more restrained than those of the striker Landon Donovan. No goalmouth histrionics from Mr Kirk, who contented himself by welcoming the ruling and saying it "levelled the playing field" between Airbus and American rival Boeing.

Well perhaps, but the EU still has 60 days to appeal, and while there have been no indications, the chances are that it will, prolonging a spat which has been dragging on since 2004. And while the WTO has ruled that the EU's risk-free loans and research and infrastructure funding count as unfair subsidies, this only counts as a partial victory for the US. There's also the matter of a European complaint against what it alleges are unfair subsidies to Boeing that is still to be ruled upon. A result is due next month, and if the game goes against America, the chances are that it too will launch an appeal.

This is a grudge match that has been going on for six years and is a long way from being over. The EU's trade negotiator, Karel De Gucht, was last night maintaining that Europe is committed to a "negotiated settlement", but there appears scant chance of that, given the way this one has been dragging on, and on, and on. There's a good chance that both these sides will still be on the pitch in four years' time.

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