Vol. 5 Num 289 Sun. March 20, 2005  

EU regrets US 'unilateral' action in Airbus-Boeing row

The European Union on Saturday accused the United States of unilaterally breaking off transatlantic talks on subsidies to aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing.

"I regret this unilateral action in breaking off the negotiations," EU Commerce Commissioner Peter Mandelson said. "It is premature and unnecessary."

"I fully understand the difficulties but I think we could have overcome them with further efforts," he added in a statement.

Mandelson said however that he was "happy to return to the negotiating table and perhaps the new US trade representative (Rob Portman) will look at that."

Portman was nominated Thursday.

The United States lodged a complaint against EU subsidies to France-based Airbus with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October, triggering a counteraction from Brussels against what it termed indirect US government aid for Chicago-based Boeing.

But the two sides agreed in January to hold talks to try to resolve the dispute, using WTO rules as the basis for an agreement.

Brussels and Washington agreed to a three-month time frame to renegotiate a 1992 bilateral accord that set the terms of assistance to the aircraft makers. This effectively froze the WTO procedure.

But on Friday US negotiator Robert Zoellick decided to step up the pressure after meeting with Mandelson to discuss EU subsidies to Airbus and indirect US government aid for Boeing.

A US trade spokesman later said the United States had accused the European Union of blocking the negotiations, and threatened to take the matter back to the WTO.