Airbus accuses US gov’t of intervening in $22 bln deal

Airbus accuses US gov’t of intervening in $22 bln deal

Airbus accuses US gov’t of intervening in $22 bln deal

US President Obama (R) applauds after a deal signed by Boeing and Lion Air. AP photo

Europe’s Airbus accused the White House of derailing open competition by helping Boeing win a record aircraft deal in Indonesia as details emerged of a behind-the-scenes struggle over jobs and airplane sales worth almost $22 billion.

The European planemaker’s sales chief said lobbying over the deal on behalf of President Barack Obama had demonstrated double standards on free-market competition amid an ongoing row between Washington and Europe over aircraft subsidies.

“There’s only one superpower in the world and I think we know it isn’t France; it is probably represented by President Obama,” John Leahy said at a market briefing in Washington on Thursday. “When he starts making headlines that he is selling airplanes and how that wouldn’t happen without his personal involvement, we are seeing economic distortion and we shouldn’t be talking about free and open level playing fields for trade around the world if the U.S. pulls stuff like that.”

Last month, Obama showcased an order for 230 jets from Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air worth $21.7 billion at list prices, the largest commercial deal in Boeing’s history.

That came months after Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS , pulled off a dramatic coup by landing its own largest order in volume terms for 260 aircraft from American Airlines, toppling an exclusive Boeing customer.

The move prompted Boeing to alter its strategy and match Airbus by refreshing its most-sold 737 model with new engines.

Attending the Lion Air signing ceremony during a nine-day Pacific tour in mid-November, Obama called the deal a “win-win” for U.S. workers and Asian consumers and said his administration and the Ex-Im bank played a key role in facilitating the sale. The White House said it would support 110,000 industrial U.S. jobs, addressing a key issue in next year’s elections.

“The CEO and owner of [Lion Air] ... came to see me in Toulouse twice to talk about buying the airplanes and in the end told me he had no choice,” Leahy said. “I am not sure what ‘has no choice’ means, but there seems to have been an awful lot of political interference.”