- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

GENEVA (Agence France-Presse) — World Trade Organization chief Supachai Panitchpakdi yesterday sharply criticized private companies such as Airbus and Boeing, saying they were raising tensions in the global free-trade system.

When asked about the complaint and countercomplaint filed at the WTO by the United States and the European Union over state support to the aircraft makers, Mr. Supachai said the private sector was behind many of the recent bruising disputes between major trade powers.

“It’s at the level of the private sector that most of these disputes are here. You’re talking about Boeing. This is a private-sector initiative; it’s not because of [Robert B.] Zoellick and [Pascal] Lamy,” Mr. Supachai said, referring to the top U.S. and EU trade officials.

“I hope the private sector will have a constructive attitude,” said Mr. Supachai, adding that private companies had the power to determine “how factionalized” the multilateral trade system could be.

Tensions over the end of textile-import quotas next year were raised by pressure from private industry, the WTO director general said, also pointing to the confrontation between the United States and the European Union over steel, and others over subsidies.

“All these disputes are mainly because of a lack of adjustment by the private sector,” he said.

“If they are willing to take up the difficult and painstaking adjustments, probably with the help of governments, then we can avoid quite a number of disputes,” he added.

Companies should turn to arbitration and consultation among themselves before they lobby governments for litigation, Mr. Supachai said.

The United States and the European Union are scheduled to discuss their dispute over state subsidies to Airbus and Boeing at the WTO on Thursday and Friday.

On Oct. 6, Washington lodged a complaint with the WTO about European plane development subsidies to Airbus, triggering a tit-for-tat European objection to indirect U.S. subsidies for Boeing.

A senior Boeing official has said the WTO’s procedure also could be the venue for fresh U.S.-EU negotiations on revamping a 1992 trans-Atlantic aircraft subsidies accord.

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