PARIS — The European Airbus consortium launched a public offensive Monday to defend itself against charges by rival U.S. aircraft manufacturers that it was thriving on unfair government subsidies.
Airbus Industrie President Jean Pierson told a news conference that a "formidably organized campaign of aggression" threatens Airbus and all European companies that do not already act as subcontractors for U.S. manufacturers.
Using unusually strong language to defend the European position in the latest transatlantic trade conflict, Pierson complained that a "campaign of denigration" had been mounted against Airbus and the European aircraft industry.
To convince U.S. authorities that the new generation of A330 and A340 Airbuses did not depend on government subsidies, the consortium privately presented its cash-flow expectations and market studies to a team of U.S. officials, Pierson said.
U.S. officials and aircraft manufacturers have been accusing the Airbus consortium of receiving billions of dollars in soft loans from European governments to develop the airliners that compete for sales with those made by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
The Airbus consortium consists of France's Aerospatiale, Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm GmbH of West Germany, British Aerospace PLC and Construcciones Aeronauticas SA of Spain.
Countering the U.S. accusations, Pierson said American aircraft manufacturers enjoyed considerable indirect support and had been able to count on numerous U.S. government contracts to keep going.
He said this should be taken into account just as much as direct subsidies. To back up his arguments, Pierson showed journalists an 8,000-page document he had assembled listing some 60,000 government contracts won by U.S. industry.
The fall of the dollar is seriously undermining export markets for the Airbus.