The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the European Union (EU) failed to comply with requests to end subsidies for Airbus. US Trade Representative (USTR) said the ruling in the dispute opens the way for placing tariffs on EU goods.
The USTR argued that European countries had given US$ 22bn in state aid to Airbus to help launch its A380 and A350 jets, causing losses to US rival Boeing. However the European Commission said most of the disputed support ended in 2011. It said it had only a few remaining things to do to be compliant and pledged swift action on those fronts.
This week's ruling in favor of the US, which brought the case on behalf of plane-maker Boeing, brings an end to a dispute which began in 2004 over US$ 22bn in subsidized European financing for Airbus.
The WTO initially found in favor of the US in 2011. The US subsequently complained that the EU and certain member countries were not in compliance with the decision, prompting further wrangling between the two sides.
But this week the WTO dismissed an appeal by Airbus, saying the European plane maker had failed to fix the harm done to US rival Boeing.
Boeing chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said: Today's final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies are not tolerated.
The EUand Airbus argued that the WTO had rejected many of Boeing's initial claims in the suit, limiting the damage. Airbus is also waiting for the outcome of a similar WTO case challenging US government support for Boeing.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders said: 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.
The decision authorizes the US to retaliate against Europe with sanctions, the amount of which would be determined in another WTO decision. Boeing said it is expecting the largest-ever WTO authorization of retaliatory tariffs - which would mean billions of dollars. The retaliation can apply to a range of goods and could come as early as 2019, analysts said.
It is rare for a dispute to reach this point. And in the past, the counter-claims over US subsidies for Boeing have kept tensions in check, averting tariffs. But on Tuesday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer threatened further action.
Unless the EU finally takes action to stop breaking the rules and harming US interests, the United States will have to move forward with countermeasures on EU products, he said.
The Trump administration may decide to use the decision as leverage to advance other goals, said Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
The White House is currently negotiating with the EU over steel and aluminum tariffs. The US has also expressed frustration over tariffs placed on US goods such as automobiles. This has the ability to get complicated, Mr. Bown said.