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WTO ruling opens the way for tariffs (or talks)

Airbus A380 jumbo jet
European loan programs for developing Airbus’ A380 jumbo jet were among the issues addressed in a ruling from the World Trade Organization. (Airbus / e*m Photo / H. Gousse)

The World Trade Organization today issued its final report in a long-running dispute over subsidies for Airbus jets, potentially clearing the way for the U.S. to levy harsh tariffs on European imports.

It’s more likely, however, that U.S. and European officials will bear down on negotiations over complaints that also touch on the Boeing Co.’s tax breaks from Washington state.

Today’s WTO appellate panel ruling determined that Airbus received improper loan subsidies from European governments to launch its A350 and A380 jets. Similar claims, relating to the A320 and A330 lines, were dismissed.

In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the ruling “confirms once and for all that the EU has long ignored WTO rules.”

“Unless the EU finally takes action to stop breaking the rules and harming U.S. interests, the United States will have to move forward with countermeasures on EU products,” Lighthizer said.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the ruling affirmed his company’s complaints. “Today’s final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies is not tolerated,” he said in a statement.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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