WTO to uphold Boeing claim that Airbus aid was illegal

THE World Trade Organisation (WTO) is expected to say today that aid subsidies provided to Airbus by European governments were illegal, signalling a huge victory for its US rival Boeing in a tit-for-tat row that has rumbled on since 2004.<br /><br />The international trade body has spent nearly five years analysing complaints from Washington challenging loans provided to the European aircraft-maker to help it develop jets such as the A350.<br /><br />The EU countered with its own accusation that Boeing had received similar state subsidies, but the WTO is expected to find in favour of the American company in a preliminary ruling today.<br /><br />Boeing wants its rival to repay $5bn (&pound;3bn) of &ldquo;launch aid&rdquo; received from EU governments, as well as money invested in Airbus products.<br /><br />Despite frequent complaints from the US over the issue, Airbus has this year secured funding promises worth &euro;1.1bn (&pound;960m) from Germany, &euro;1.4bn from France and &pound;340m from the UK.<br /><br />Ted Austell, Boeing&rsquo;s vice president for government operations, said last week that he hoped a ruling in favour of his firm would force European governments to reconsider their decision to help finance the A350 project.<br /><br />Airbus said in 2006 that a revamp of the A350 would cost around $10bn, while it is also working on the new A380, set to be the world&rsquo;s largest commercial passenger jet.<br /><br />Boeing&rsquo;s complaint prompted the European Commission to launch a countersuit against Boeing, which it claims has received some $24bn worth of subsidies and tax breaks since 1992.