Transatlantic hushkit agreement evaporates

EU withdraws compromise offer, USA files ICAO action over European aircraft noise law

A damaging trade war between the EU and the United States over aircraft noise looks inevitable after transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio last night ruled out a key concession and the USA today lodged an official complaint against the EU with the global air transport regulatory agency. An EU law banning firms from landing aircraft with engine mufflers - hushkits - at European airports is now almost certain to enter into force in May.

The EU had given the USA until yesterday to respond to its offer to suspend the "hushkits regulation" in return for US cooperation in pushing for stricter global aircraft noise standards (ENDS Daily 9 February).

US trade representative David Aaron met with EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio yesterday, and said afterwards that the USA was prepared to accept the EU's offer to suspend rather than withdraw the law, which American aircraft exporters say has already lost them US$2bn (euros 2.06bn) (ENDS Daily 19 January).

However, Mr Aaron said the USA should also be able to "level the playing field" by starting and then suspending a legal action against the EU over the hushkits regulation under International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules. This angered the EU so much that it withdrew its compromise offer. "I can't make a proposal to suspend [the regulation] in these circumstances," Ms de Palacio told MEPs yesterday evening.

After listening to Ms de Palacio, the European Parliament's environment committee passed a unanimous resolution calling the US position "totally unacceptable" and said it would "consider a limited review" of the EU regulation only if the Americans gave a "written, binding commitment" to work for new international noise standards by 2001.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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