PROTECTIONISM, RETALIATIONBy Reuters - | Posted 2008-06-17 Print
The trans-Atlantic "air-tanker war" between Boeing, Northrup Grumman and EADS will likely rage for some time despite this week's deadline on a ruling from U.S. auditors.
Some House lawmakers favor measures to protect American jobs, although Northrop argues that its tanker plan will create 48,000 U.S. jobs, 4,000 more than Boeing backers say will be supported by Boeing's plan.
The Senate is more likely to resist protectionist measures, heeding Pentagon warnings that such actions could trigger retaliation and dampen foreign demand for U.S. weapons.
Protectionist measures could harm Boeing, which relies on foreign suppliers to build its commercial aircraft. Even the Boeing 737 that forms the basis of the P-8A surveillance aircraft it is building for the Navy is built with parts from China, according to a company spokeswoman.
The Democratic party has already seized on the protectionist issue in the 2008 presidential election.
On Monday, the Democratic National Committee again accused Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, of helping to "steer a tanker contract to a European company for which his campaign advisors then lobbied, shipping tens of thousands of American jobs overseas."
McCain led a probe that ultimately resulted in the collapse of an earlier Air Force deal to lease Boeing tankers, a plan auditors said would have cost taxpayers $5 billion more than an outright purchase. A senior Air Force official and Boeing's former finance chief served prison time for the plan.
McCain wrote letters urging a fair and competitive bidding process, but insists that was the extent of his involvement.
Critics say the role of McCain's advisers raise an appearance of impropriety. They point to lobbyist Thomas Loeffler, a former Republican member of Congress from Texas who was McCain's campaign co-chairman but resigned from the campaign after reports showed he was also a lobbyist for EADS.
Congressional reaction to the GAO decision could also be fanned by recent criminal charges brought by various European governments against former Airbus officials for insider trading, said defense consultant Jim McAleese.
(Editing by Brian Moss)
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved
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