Why I’m so touchy when it comes to Airbus

This article in the Scotsman from last January made the EU look very bad, and it was widely quoted in the blogospehre:

TSUNAMI-struck Thailand has been told by the European Commission that it must buy six A380 Airbus aircraft if it wants to escape the tariffs against its fishing industry.

While millions of Europeans are sending aid to Thailand to help its recovery, trade authorities in Brussels are demanding that Thai Airlines, its national carrier, pays £1.3 billion to buy its double-decker aircraft.

The demand will come as a deep embarrassment to Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, whose officials started the negotiation before the disaster struck Thailand – killing tens of thousands of people and damaging its economy.

While aid workers from across Europe are helping to rebuild Thai livelihoods, trade officials in Brussels are concluding a jets-for-prawns deal, which they had hoped to announce next month.

And as it happens, it got things completely wrong:

A major aircraft deal between Thailand and European consortium Airbus is likely to go ahead despite threats of a delay by the Thai government blamed on political grandstanding ahead of national elections, analysts said.

Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday that national flag carrier Thai Airways International would delay signing a purchase agreement for eight Airbus aircraft, including six A380 superjumbos, while demanding that the European Union ease trade rules covering Thailand’s shrimp, poultry and farm products.

The Thai cabinet had approved the 96.3 billion baht (2.4 billion dollars) deal to buy 14 aircraft for the national carrier, to be split between rival manufacturers Boeing and the European consortium Airbus, but it rejected a cash-only deal.

Analysts said, however, that the Airbus deal was on the verge of being completed and the delay threat was for the benefit of a domestic audience ahead of a Thaksin re-election bid expected in February next year.

(This article is from last November)

Alright, the press does this kind of thing, but what some British bloggers made of this was bit rich.

Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata:

I realise that it is carrying the search for a silver lining to absurd lengths to say such a thing, but one good thing about this whole Tsunami horror is that it has brought this EU vileness rather more out into the open than would have happened otherwise. As it is, the combination of nastiness and lack of political sensitivity being shown by the EU is extraordinary even by their low standards.

He got the link from the EU Referendum blog where Richard North wrote:

that is the EU, naked in tooth and claw. While workers from across world are on the ground, helping to rebuild the Thai economy, EU officials are also right in there – undermining the basis of any recovery.

When I sent them the link to the article refuting the Scotman’s claims, they didn’t correct their posts or at least reply to my mails.

It’s easy to see why: The usually excellent Brian Micklethwait has a bee in his bonnet about the European Union, and the EU Referendum blog has been set up to help defeat the EU constitution in the referendum, so they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give up on this juicy story. While I sympathize with their goal, for the proposed constitution is indeed a horrid document, I have to deplore their methods in this case, for the collateral damage doesn’t just extend to the European Union as an institution but Europe the continent.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest it’s time to cool down, retract my claws and pick the gore from between my teeth (very carefully, for Shannon might want some of these bits back).

8 thoughts on “Why I’m so touchy when it comes to Airbus”

  1. Just to be provocative…

    Unless I am missing something, both news articles seem to describing the same quid pro quo deal. Thailand wants to link the purchase of planes to reduction of tariffs on shrimp and the E.U. wants to link reductions of tariffs to purchases of the planes.

    I think the question is: Did the EU in fact link tariff reduction to the purchase of the planes or not?

    If they did, I think they are in the wrong even if the Thai started it. (Especially since the original cause of the tariffs was obstensively a health issue involving the presence of an antibiotic in the shrimp.)

    I don’t think the governments of developed countries be involved in this kind of micromanaged horse trading with the developing world. It would also put the EU in the position of putting the good of Airbus over the good of European shrimping industry.

  2. Shannon,

    I agree that protectionist tariffs on imports are wrong, but point is that the EU didn’t blackmail the Thai’s by telling them that they should buy the planes or face the tariffs – the Thais were the only ones making a connection here.

  3. Shannon, Are all the U. S. airlines that buy the Airbus being coerced to do so? It seems to be a fine plane and if the European tax payers want to pay Ameican airlines to buy their plane, why should I object any more than when the Chinese accept depreciaitng U. S. securities in exchange for just about every thing sold at WalMart?

  4. Ralf,

    The EU bashing re: the Thailand Shrimpy Airbus deal was, even though overblown, an attack based on business and political practices.

    This current matter of A3x00s falling, or nearly so, from the sky due to rudder ripoff is a very legitmate safety issue. It may also be overblown but better that potential safety issues be overblown rather than ignored. And, notfuhnuttin, there is the matter of not declaring an emergency and landing at the closest airport with a gone rudder. Wassupwitdat?

  5. I think that Samizdat etc are still right. Suppose I kidnap your cat – but dont make any demands or threats. You then offer to wash my windows – if I return the cat. Isnt that implicit blackmail?

    Simple fact is that the EU – through its tarrifs imporverishes poor countries and holds out tarrif reductions like the cat above.

  6. Knuckelhead,

    alright, lets look at those laminates, but Boeing is using them too, now. And the behavior of the airline does look dodgy; there should ge a serious inquiry into that.


    that’s not what happened; the EU did impose the tariffs, but didn’t offer the Thais’s a reduction in tariffs.

  7. The problem is not that it’s difficult to build a modern jetliner. The problem is that no one really trusts the EU bureaucracy to allow an honest investigation into potential problems. What a way to run an airplane factory! What a way to run a continent!

    I don’t know about you, but my property is littered with Airbus rudders that have fallen off in flight. Those Euros could certainly learn a few things about building aircraft.

Comments are closed.