EU Angered Over WTO Delay of Boeing Ruling

Warns that repeated delays hurt chances of a negotiated settlement

The European Union lashed out Thursday at a WTO decision to postpone a ruling on U.S. subsidies to aerospace giant Boeing, warning that repeated delays hurt chances of a negotiated settlement.

"The European Commission is extremely disappointed to learn of this additional delay into the issuing of the interim panel report," the EU's executive arm said in a statement.

The World Trade Organization's confidential interim panel report was supposed to come out on July 16, but the commission said it was informed on Wednesday that the release would be postponed "until mid-September at the latest."

The report is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between Boeing and European rival Airbus over multibillion-dollar government subsidies, with both sides filing rival complaints with the world trade referee.

Boeing claimed a "sweeping legal victory" last week when the WTO, in an interim report on the American complaint, ruled that some state support for Airbus was illegal.

The European Commission complained that the time lag between the release of the reports "creates the wrong impression that Airbus has received some WTO incompatible support, whereas Boeing has not."

"Only when we have received both panel reports will both sides have a more complete picture of the dispute," it said.

The commission said it "remains confident as to the strength of the EU's legal challenge."

It added: "We are, however, very concerned that these delays decrease the chance for a negotiated settlement, which is -- as publicly stated by both sides -- the desired outcome to this dispute."

The battle at the Geneva-based trade watchdog broke out six years ago after a 1992 'no feud' agreement over the world's two biggest aircraft makers unraveled.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders said the European group was "surprised and disappointed by the last minute announcement of yet another delay by the Boeing subsidies panel."

"Another delay is a disappointment. But we are looking forward to the Boeing subsidies panel report. It will eventually come, and it will show: Boeing has received billions of dollars in WTO illegal subsidies," he said in a statement.

In a report released on June 30, the WTO's disputes panel upheld parts of a U.S. complaint in the marathon legal battle.

The 1,200-page ruling said EU states should halt some aid for the development and export of Airbus airliners.

It notably accepted three out of seven claims by Washington that key launch aid amounted to export subsidies, which are illegal under WTO rules.

The European aircraft giant suggested it might appeal the decision.

Copyright Agence-France Presse, 2010

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