European Union Will Fight U.S. Complaint Over
Europe's Refusal to Accept "Hushkit" Aircraft

JULY 20, 2000

The European Union (EU) has rejected a complaint from the United States that it broke global aviation rules by banning older aircraft fitted with noise mufflers, the European Commission said on Thursday. The Commission, the EU's executive, said it had received a mandate from the 15 EU countries to fight the U.S. legal challenge to its ban -- the latest episode in a long-simmering transatlantic trade row.

In March the United States filed a formal complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation -- international aviation's rule-making body -- against an EU regulation, which came into force in May, banning aircraft fitted with "hushkits" or noise mufflers. Hushkits are fitted to older aircraft to make them comply with modern noise standards. The EU says hushkitted aircraft are still among the noisiest and also produce more pollution than newer aircraft and it legislated to phase them out.

The Commission said in a statement it told the ICAO on Tuesday the U.S. complaint was inadmissible for technical reasons. "It is now up to the ICAO Council to pronounce on these preliminary objections," the Commission said.

The hushkits regulation, like EU restrictions on genetically modified food, has riled U.S. businesses, which see both as trade barriers disguised as environmental protection.

The United States says the ban discriminates against U.S. hushkit makers and has cost U.S. firms up to $2 billion in lost sales and reduced fleet values. Some congressmen have called for U.S. airports to ban Europe's supersonic jet Concorde in retaliation.

Months of negotiations between the Commission and the U.S. government broke down in March and the United States asked the ICAO to intervene. The U.S. complained to ICAO that the EU regulation broke global aviation rules which are normally agreed within the international body.

All 15 EU countries are members of ICAO, but only six have seats on the body's 33-member executive Council: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Britain.

Source: Reuters