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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced a bi-partisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Pentagon to consider the unfair advantage provided by illegal subsidies in the competition to replace the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker.

After introducing the amendment Murray delivered the following speech on the Senate floor:

A Bi-Partisan Amendment Focused on Jobs

Mr. President, today I am joining with Senator Brownback to introduce a bi-partisan amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that will save and create jobs in one of the most important sectors in our economy – our aerospace industry.

Our amendment is about protecting skilled, family-wage jobs…manufacturing jobs and engineering jobs – jobs with technical skills and expertise that are passed down from one generation to the next.

Jobs that not only support families during this difficult economic time, but that are also helping to keep entire communities above water. Jobs in communities in Kansas, in Connecticut, in California, and in my home state of Washington. Jobs that support small businesses, pay mortgages, and create economic opportunity. Jobs that - right now - are at risk because of illegal subsidies that undercut workers and create an uneven playing field for America’s aerospace workers.

What Murray-Brownback Amendment Does

Mr. President, the amendment that Senator Brownback and I are offering today is a common-sense, straightforward way to protect American aerospace jobs from unfair European competition. And it is an amendment that specifically targets a major job-creating project - the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker contract - as a place where we can begin to restore fairness for our aerospace workers.

This amendment says that in awarding that tanker contract the Pentagon must also consider any unfair competitive advantage aerospace companies have. And there is no bigger unfair advantage in the world of international aerospace than Launch Aid.

Mr. President, as you may know, Launch Aid is direct funding that has been provided to the European aerospace company Airbus from the Treasuries of European governments. It’s what supports their factories, their workers, and their airplanes. It’s what allows them to roll the dice and lose – and what separates them from American aerospace companies like Boeing – who bet the company on each new airplane line.  In short, it’s what allows them to stack the deck against American workers.

WTO’s Decision on Launch Aid

But in July of this year the World Trade Organization handed down a ruling in a case the United States brought against the European Union that finally called Launch Aid what it really is a trade-distorting, job-killing, unfair advantage. In what was one of our nation’s most important trade cases to date, the WTO ruled very clearly that launch aid is illegal, it creates an uneven playing field, it has harmed American workers and American companies, and it needs to end.

Specifically, the WTO found that European governments have provided Airbus more than 15 billion Euros in launch aid – subsidizing every model of aircraft ever produced by Airbus in the last 40 years – including the model they plan to put up for the tanker competition. They ruled that France, Germany and Spain provided more than one billion Euros in infrastructure and infrastructure-related grants between 1989 and 2001 - as well as another billion in share transfers and equity infusions to airbus. And they ruled that European governments provided over one billion Euros in funding between 1986 and 2005 for research and development directed specifically to the development of Airbus aircraft.  In fact, the Lexington Institute estimates that Launch Aid represents over 200 billion in today’s dollars in total subsidies to Airbus.

The Consequences of Launch Aid

And Launch Aid has had very real consequences. It has created an uphill battle for our workers and for American aerospace as a whole.

Because of Launch Aid, our workers are now not only competing against rival companies, they are competing against the treasuries of European governments. And at the end of the day, that has meant lost jobs at our American aerospace companies and suppliers, and in the communities that support them. 

Now, Mr. President, I have been speaking out against Europe’s market-distorting actions for many years because I understand these subsidies are not only illegal, they are deeply unfair and anti-competitive. My home state of Washington is home to much of our country’s aerospace industry, and I know our workers are the best in the world.

On a level playing field, they can compete and win against absolutely anyone. But unfortunately, Airbus and the European Union have refused to allow fair competition. Instead, they use their aerospace industry as a government funded jobs program—and they use billions in illegal launch aid to fund it.

WTO Countersuit Doesn’t Hold Weight

And they will do just about anything to keep those illegal subsidies in place. We saw evidence of that in recent days in news on Airbus’ attempts to distract and hide their job killing subsidies through their retaliatory WTO case against Boeing. Unfortunately for them, it was a smokescreen that failed. News reports and analysis have all shown that the two WTO decisions are worlds apart.

In fact, leading aerospace analyst Loren Thompson wrote after the Boeing ruling that it “found nothing comparable to European launch aid.” So the most recent WTO ruling really only reinforces that American aerospace workers have been at a competitive disadvantage. And that needs to change.

Amendment Creates Jobs through Common Sense Policy

Mr. President, let me be clear about one thing, our objective is not to limit competition – our objective is to ensure that everyone can compete on a level playing-field. Airbus has made clear that they’ll go to any lengths to hurt our country’s aerospace industry. We need to make clear that we will take every action to stop them.

Because this is not only about the future of aerospace. It’s about jobs right now that will help our economy recover.

In fact, as we look for ways to stimulate job growth and keep American companies innovating and growing. We should look no further than this amendment.

But Mr. President, this amendment is also common-sense policy. It ensures that U.S. government policy translates to Pentagon policy. Because the fact is that the U.S. government – through our trade representative - has taken the position that Airbus subsidies are illegal and unfair. Yet the United States Department of Defense is ignoring that position as we look to purchase a new tanker fleet. And that just doesn’t make sense. Not for our country, not for our military, and certainly not for our workers.

The WTO made a fair decision—Airbus subsidies are illegal and anti-competitive. Now the DOD needs to take this ruling into account.

Time to Tell Workers We Have Evened the Stakes

When I talk to Aerospace workers back home in Washington state I want to be able to tell them that we’ve evened the stakes. I want them to know that their government is not looking the other way as policies continue to undercut their job opportunities. And I want them to know that while they are working to secure our country by producing the best airplanes in the world, their government is doing everything it can to ensure fair opportunities that will keep them on the job.

I know our workers will win a fair and open competition—and I urge DOD to do the right thing - to make this competition fair and open by considering illegal subsidies in awarding this critical contract. I urge you all to support this bi-partisan amendment and to help protect American aerospace jobs.

I yield the floor.