Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The commercial aircraft industry is important to the United States for both economic and political reasons. Economically, commercial aviation has been the linchpin of the military-industrial complex and a positive actor on many other segments of U.S. industry. Politically, Boeing has ensured the lead of the United States in the aviation industry and aviation exports, which have a beneficial effect on the ability of the United States to export geopolitical power.

Cognizant of this salutary effect of a successful aviation industry on the United States, Europe created and financed Airbus as a direct competitor to Boeing, hoping it would play the same role for the European Union that Boeing has played for the United States. Recent events, especially the proposed A380 super-jumbo jet and the advancing development of the European Army, place Airbus at the crossroads of European technological advance and military integration, and make Airbus' success vital to that of the "European Project."

Though global trade agreements such as GATT and the WTO have attempted to deal with this sensitive political and economic issue, they have been unable to do so successfully. This has happened for a number of reasons, ranging from the weakness of the dispute resolution structures embedded in the trade agreements to the intransigence of the principles involved. However, in dealing with Airbus' attempt to steal Boeing's market share and serve as a cohesive force for European integration, U.S. policy makers should not, as in the past, throw up their hands at the collective inaction of trade bodies and accept the status quo. Rather, they should seek heterodoxical solutions, especially in the diplomatic sphere, to deal with this pressing and potentially paradigm-shifting issue.