LE BOURGET, France - Boeing Co. chairman Lew Platt said Wednesday that a trans-Atlantic trade dispute over plane subsidies should not exclude Airbus from U.S. defense work as sought by lawmakers.
But Platt stuck firmly to demands that the European company give up government development loans before the sides open talks to resolve the subsidies row.
Asked whether the trade dispute should affect Airbus’ eligibility for U.S. defense work, Platt said: ‘‘In my view it should not.’’
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill last month that includes an amendment to prevent the Pentagon from awarding contracts to foreign companies whose subsidies are contested by the United States.
Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. hopes to bid for a multibillion-dollar deal to supply refueling tankers based on Airbus jets to the U.S. Air Force, and lawmakers said the amendment was intended to block the European bid.
‘‘I don’t love that,’’ said Platt, speaking to reporters at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, north of the French capital. ‘‘I want access to the markets here. I want competition to be conducted on a level playing field. Part of that means that they should be able to compete for business in the United States.’’
Washington filed World Trade Organization litigation last month against European Union states’ aid to Airbus, and Brussels countersued over state, federal and overseas government support to Boeing.
But Platt said he won’t open discussions to resolve the dispute over government support ‘‘until we have an agreement that (Airbus) launch aid will cease.’’
At the center of the subsidies row is the future rival to the Boeing 787 ‘‘Dreamliner,’’ the Airbus A350, which has been boosted by a slew of new orders at the show.
A 60-plane order from Qatar Airways and smaller deals with Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines and leasing companies GECAS and ALAFCO have taken the A350 order book to 97 units. Airbus said U.S. Airways has agreed to buy a further 20 of the planes when it merges with America West Holdings Corp., helped by a $250 million Airbus loan.
Noel Forgeard, Airbus’ CEO, acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. trade litigation was behind an EADS decision announced last week to put off the A350’s industrial launch until September.
‘‘If we confirm the launch only in September it’s because we want to give the maximum time to a negotiated solution,’’ Forgeard said.
EU governments typically offer funding for Airbus programs in the form of soft loans, which Boeing says amount to subsidies because of their preferential terms and because they don’t have to be repaid if a plane flops commercially.
EADS and Airbus accuse Boeing of receiving subsidies in excess of the 3 percent of revenue allowed under the terms of a 1992 pact between Brussels and Washington — which also limited Airbus’ repayable government aid to one-third of development costs. The Europeans cite Boeing’s state and federal tax breaks, NASA research funding, Pentagon military contracts and Japanese government aid enjoyed by suppliers on the 787 program.
Boeing is willing in principle to put all forms of public support on the negotiating table, Platt said. ‘‘But that’s not a discussion that’s going to get started until we have an agreement that (Airbus) launch aid will cease.’’
Airbus has applied for government launch funding to build the A350.
Despite the launch postponement, the surge of A350 orders has closed part of the 787’s lead. So far this week, Boeing has announced no additions to the 128 firm orders and 138 nonbinding commitments on its books for the fuel-efficient, long-range Dreamliner set to enter service in 2008, two years ahead of the Airbus.
Boeing has announced orders for a total of 146 planes during Le Bourget — most of them 737s — while Airbus has announced 112 and says more deals are likely later in the week.
Dubai-based Emirates, which had been expected to order a further 50 A350s at the show, said it was putting off any decision.
‘‘We walk out of here having lost less ground to Airbus than I thought we might during the show,’’ Platt said.
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