U. S. versus eu competition Policy: The Boeing-McDonnell Douglas Merger

Дата канвертавання19.04.2016
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Market share for new orders to U.S. customers, 1993-1997






































McDonnell Douglas











Total U.S. Orders






Source: Aerospace Industries Association
In 1998, the year after Boeing announced its merger with McDonnell Douglas, Airbus broke ahead of Boeing in new sales when it announced the sale of 188 A320 family aircraft to British Airways, formerly a stalwart customer of Boeing. At the time, Boeing was faced with production difficulties, struggling to meet demand as a result of the success of the “next-generation” 737 model. The sale to British Airways reflected the emergence of Airbus as a powerful competitor in the short-haul market, a reversal of the days when Airbus relied on the A300 and A310, both medium-haul wide-bodies, to compete with Boeing.27
While competition in the narrow-body and smaller wide-body aircraft was heating up, Boeing maintained its monopoly on the jumbo wide-body market. Launched in 1970, Boeing’s 747, equipped to carry more than 400 passengers, faced no direct competition from Airbus or McDonnell Douglas. Boeing’s monopoly in this market segment allowed it to charge higher prices to customers absent competition. In the next market segment below the jumbo wide-body, Airbus offered the A330 and A340, equipped for between 250 and 380 passengers, respectively, to compete against the Boeing 767 and 777. Boeing’s dominance in the jumbo wide-body market spurred Airbus to move forward with its A3XX program, later renamed the A380, a double-decker jumbo jet able to carry over 550 passengers, which is scheduled to enter service in 2006.
As orders and shipments dwindled, McDonnell Douglas was largely out of the commercial aircraft picture by the end of 1997. Its failure in the commercial market came not only as a result of stiff competition from Boeing and Airbus, but also in part from its inability to offer a real family of aircraft.28 By 1996, it offered only the MD-80 and MD-90, both equipped for about 160 passengers, and the 300-passenger MD-11, and was working on developing the 100-passenger MD-95, compared to Boeing’s family of 16 models. Its shipments had stagnated: only 12 MD-80s, 24 MD-90s and 15 MD-11s were delivered in 1996.29
Trade Agreements and Conflicts over Subsidies

As a new entrant to the commercial aircraft market, Airbus needed high levels of government support to finance the development of new models and to provide generous financing terms to its customers. Although U.S. manufacturers saw these subsidies as giving Airbus an unfair advantage in the market, they were themselves receiving export support through the Ex-Im Bank and Foreign Sales Corporation, and benefited from military contracts, work on the space shuttle and other high-tech programs under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Boeing had been caught off guard by the strategies employed by Airbus to sell its A300 in the late 1970s, and was particularly angered by direct government subsidies being used to cover the losses from a sale of 23 A300s to Eastern Airlines in 1978. The United States argued that European government subsidies gave Airbus an unfair competitive advantage over Boeing, and threatened to use countervailing duties (CVDs) to offset the advantage created by the subsidies. (CVDs are tariffs charged to imports that have lower prices due to government subsidies; they are used to bring the low-priced imports up to prevailing market prices.)
Prior to the existence of Airbus, the threat of European retaliation to the use of CVDs was low. As Airbus became stronger, however, the chances of European retaliation to CVDs increased, and the United States faced a choice between brinksmanship and negotiation.30 U.S. aircraft manufacturers were against the use of CVDs or other forms of protection, instead requesting similar support from the U.S. government in the form of R&D support, tax relief, and additional financing from the Ex-Im Bank, a government vehicle that financed cheap loans to exporters.31 The U.S. government thought it could negotiate an agreement that would eliminate not only barriers to trade in commercial aircraft, but also direct government support in Europe. The ensuing negotiations resulted in the 1979 GATT Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, which did remove the trade barriers; it failed, however, to limit subsidies.
The successes of the 1979 GATT agreement were the result of common interests on both sides of the Atlantic in eliminating barriers to market access and procurement of components.32 The agreement resulted in savings of $1 billion in tariffs and duties for U.S. manufacturers between 1980 and 1991.33 It was also the first attempt to include commercial aircraft in the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), a sweeping agreement that became the foundation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.
At the time, however, the GATT was sorely lacking in enforcement mechanisms, and the poor wording of the 1979 GATT agreement failed to curtail direct government subsidies in the industry. The agreement’s exact wording on subsidies, stating that any government support should “seek to avoid adverse effects on trade in civil aircraft”34 left plenty of room for interpretation by the signatories and rendered the agreement immediately obsolete with respect to direct government subsidies.

Following the failure of the 1979 GATT agreement to curtail subsidies, transatlantic conflict over government support intensified during the 1980s. While the development and export financing of Airbus aircraft was supported directly by European governments and European Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) respectively, U.S. manufacturers were also the beneficiaries of government support, though often in a more indirect form. European governments argued that generous Ex-Im Bank financing, as well as R&D support to U.S. firms through the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA, was, in fact, giving U.S. aircraft manufacturers an unfair advantage. U.S. aircraft manufacturers were also some of the primary beneficiaries of the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) export subsidy regime.

Defense and space contracts provided financing to U.S. companies like Boeing and McDonnell Douglas to experiment with new designs and production methods. Research and improvements made for military aircraft have often been applied to commercial aircraft, decreasing the development costs for new commercial models. Subtle changes in the shape of an aircraft’s wings, for example, can have a dramatic effect on the overall efficiency of the aircraft. New engine technology that is first used in military aircraft also often results in improvements to commercial engine technology. Finally, the process involved in producing individual components and integrating and assembling the multiple systems necessary to complete the aircraft can be honed during the production of military aircraft, accelerating the learning effects of commercial aircraft production.35
In 1985, an agreement to limit the use of export financing was reached through negotiations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Large Aircraft Sector Understanding was successful in limiting government support for export financing, but still failed to address the issue of government subsidies.36
An attempt by the United States in 1989 to file a formal GATT complaint against the German government over exchange rate guarantees pressured the European Commission into bilateral negotiations with the United States. Disagreements continued through 1990, as the United States wanted to cap “launch aid,” or the proportion of direct government support used to develop new aircraft models, at 25 percent; the Commission wanted the cap set no lower than 45 percent. The continuing disparity on the launch aid cap prompted the United States to reactivate its GATT complaint over exchange rate subsidies and lodge a second complaint over other subsidies to Airbus pursuant to the 1979 GATT Agreement.37 In 1992, a GATT dispute settlement panel ruled in favor of the United States regarding the German exchange rate guarantee program; with another case pending settlement, the Commission chose to resume bilateral negotiations with the United States.
The resulting negotiations created the bilateral 1992 Large Civil Aircraft (LCA) Agreement, which addressed all major points of contention between the United States and European Union and remains in effect in 2003. The LCA substitutes specific definitions for the GATT agreement’s vague language, capping government loans for the development of new aircraft models at 33 percent of total R&D costs, which must be repaid, with interest, within 17 years.38 The LCA also sets limits on indirect government R&D support, which is not to exceed 4 percent of annual sales of any one firm, or about $1.08 billion for Boeing in 1997.39 The agreement provides an escape clause for additional government support if a company is in financial jeopardy, and allows for the use of trade remedy laws, but only in cases where the other party has been found in violation of the agreement.
Some experts argue that the compromise, following more than 20 years of discord, came about as a result of Airbus’ success in the marketplace; once it became a real competitor to U.S. manufacturers, it was no longer necessary for European governments to provide such high levels of support. Additionally, the agreement prevents another major U.S. or European competitor from entering the market with the advantages provided by high levels of direct government support.40 Other experts pointed to the success of the U.S. GATT complaint and the fear that a dispute settlement panel might issue a broader ruling prohibiting subsidies altogether.41 Regardless of the decision calculus, the 1992 LCA Agreement marked a major improvement to the 1979 GATT agreement and set real boundaries on the use of U.S. and European government subsidies in the commercial aircraft industry.

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