Airbus Boss Takes Aim at Trump's Trade Stance

Airbus SE Chief Executive Tom Enders has flatly accused the Trump administration of protectionism, while criticizing rival Boeing Co. for exploiting such sentiments.

Foreign politicians and executives, in particular, have been wary of Washington's new "America First" trade stance, a policy critics say has been a stark departure from previous U.S. administrations' relative embrace of international trade.

Mr. Enders, speaking Monday night in London at an event sponsored by Britain's aerospace and defense industry trade body, said the U.S. "is no longer fighting for free trade." Instead, he said, the Trump administration was taking actions to close the U.S. market to foreign competitors.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in its national trade assessment last year, said the administration would "aggressively enforce U.S. trade laws and defend American workers from harmful trade barriers to promote free and fair trade that benefits all Americans."

Airbus builds airliners in France, Germany, China and the U.S.

Mr. Enders, who will leave his post next year, also criticized Boeing, the world's No. 1 plane maker by deliveries. He said Boeing was "ruthlessly surfing on this 'America First' wave." He said his Chicago-based rival has taken advantage of protectionist sentiment in steps that could have short-term benefits but pose a risk to trans-Atlantic industrial ties. He called Boeing's actions self-defeating.

Boeing said it "believes in strong competition, rules-based trade and a level playing field for all in the industry." Competitors have to play by trade rules, it said, adding that those that don't "are the ones that are 'taking advantage' and harming the wider industry."

The global commercial jet industry has become an international flashpoint for Mr. Trump's trade stance. Boeing has accused Canadian plane maker Bombardier Inc. of selling its new CSeries plane below cost last year to Delta Air Lines Inc. Bombardier said it had given discounts typical for the aircraft industry. Delta has backed Bombardier, arguing Boeing had no rival plane to offer.

The U.S. Commerce Department has sided with Boeing, saying it plans to slap tariffs totaling 300% on the CSeries aircraft.

Amid that skirmish, Airbus last year agreed to take over controlling interest in the CSeries program, working with Bombardier. Airbus has said it would assemble such planes bought by U.S. airlines at its manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala., to avoid the tariffs.

A decision on whether to impose the tariffs now depends on the U.S. International Trade Commission, which must decide in the coming weeks if Boeing was harmed by Bombardier's deal.

Write to Robert Wall at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2018 18:53 ET (23:53 GMT)