WTO set to release ruling on Airbus loans

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The WTO will publish on Wednesday its previously confidential ruling on a US complaint against subsidies to European aircraft giant Airbus, which is expected to back part of Washington's case.

The World Trade Organization said in a statement that the report by its disputes settlement panel on the case "is due to be circulated today, Wednesday 30 June, at approximately 4.30 pm (1430 GMT)."

In its original complaint lodged in 2004, the United States charged that the EU had illegally provided subsidies worth up to 200 billion dollars (139 billion euros) to Airbus.

A source in Brussels close to the dispute said the report by the WTO panel rules that the mechanism of repayable state loans, crucial to the development of Airbus airliners, is legal and compatible with its rules.

However, it finds that the low level of interest rates at which the European Union has offered such funding under a more than two decade old mechanism were illicitly below market rates.

Overall the source described the complex ruling as a mixed outcome for authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Both sides have had the landmark 1,000 page ruling in their hands since March, but it has been kept confidential for three months under WTO rules.

The United States and the EU launched complaints on subsidies against each other six years ago at the WTO after a long-standing agreement over the world's two biggest aircraft makers broke down.

Wednesday's step marks only the first salvo in the bruising multibillion dollar subsidy battle between the aerospace giants.

The WTO's preliminary ruling on the counter claim by Brussels against Washington over allegedly illicit state financing for Boeing is due to be released to both sides on July 16th, trade sources said.

In each case, Brussels and Washington would have 60 days to lodge appeals against the WTO rulings from the moment they become public

© 2010 AFP

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