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It's a Bird, It's a Plane: Some Remarks on the Airbus Appellate Body Report (EC and Certain Member States – Large Civil Aircraft, WT/DS316/AB/R)
World Trade Review
The emergence of Airbus transformed the market structure of the LCA industry into a duopoly of similar-sized full-range manufacturers. The financing of Airbus's upfront investment expenditures came in a significant proportion from public funds, which violated, in the US's opinion the SCM Agreement. While the Appellate Body follows this view of things to a large extent, it does so in a measured way: the category of per se illegal export subsidies is interpreted with a view to the manipulation of normal market conditions; the distortion on competitive conditions matters, not the increase of exports as such. Other aspects of subsidies law clarified are the relationship between effect and subsidy. They are closely related but not identical; rightly, the report operates from the premise that the SCM Agreement's regime focuses on the effect, and not on the subsidy as such, which is a manifestation of a political choice by a sovereign Member state. The Appellate Body affirms that a subsidy has a ‘life’, a shorthand for a beginning and an end: it follows that the effect of a subsidy is not bound to be permanent but is bound to terminate. It is to be regretted that the Appellate Body avoided clarifying to what extent partial privatization, hence sale of assets at market prices to private investors, ‘extinguish’ subsidies.
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