WASHINGTON — US senators pressed Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday to say how a new WTO ruling that Europe's Airbus got illegal subsidies will affect bidding on a lucrative Pentagon tanker contract.
"We want to hear from you on how you intend take the WTO final ruling into consideration and bring fairness into this competition," said the 11 lawmakers, whose home states host operations by Airbus's US archrival Boeing.
The aerospace giants have been locked in a fierce battle for the 35-billion-dollar deal to supply new aerial refueling tankers to the US Air Force, with both sides trading accusations of unfair competition.
But the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week dealt the European Union a painful blow with ruling that found some state support for Airbus illegal, drawing cheers in Washington.
"The WTO ruling on illegal subsidies to Airbus is a landmark decision. How the United States reacts to the WTO ruling will determine if this country will continue to have a robust and vibrant aerospace industrial base in the future," said the senators in a letter to the defense chief.
Bids on the aerial refueling tankers are due by July 9, and the Pentagon is expected to name the winner in a few months after a seven-year battle between Boeing and Airbus.
"Our workers are the best in the world, and forcing them to compete against European treasuries is unfair," said the group, led by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state.
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.
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