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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Seeks UN Help Over Air Noise Spat With EU




WASHINGTON -- The United States, deadlocked on another trade dispute with Europe, will ask the United Nations to resolve a battle over aircraft noise that Washington says has already cost U.S. companies $2 billion.


The administration of U.S President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that it would file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN specialized agency that sets global aviation standards. It will seek to force the Europeans to repeal a regulation banning aircraft powered by engines they deem too loud or polluting. The appeal follows a breakdown in two-party talks between the United States and the European Union.


The regulations, adopted by the European Parliament last year but suspended pending talks with the United States, are to be enforced beginning May 4. They would crack down on planes that use engine mufflers known as "hush kits." The Europeans say the muffled engines still pollute more than new engines.


Congress and the aviation industry have put pressure on the administration to get the European rule overturned. Companies including Federal Express, United Technologies and Northwest Airlines have complained about lost sales and a plunge in the resale value of older planes after the Europeans adopted the regulation.


The House responded last March with a resolution that would ban the Concorde, the supersonic showcase of British Airways and Air France, from landing at airports in the United States. That has not become law, but the Clinton administration says it shows how the engine dispute could spiral into a larger trade war unless it is resolved soon.


"We have to defend our interests now," said Commerce Secretary William Daley in describing why Washington decided to take the case to the aviation organization. "We all want more quiet aircraft," he said, "but we are not going to let Europe set the standards unilaterally."


Though the United States and Europe trade more than $300 billion in goods annually, they often seem more like adversaries than commercial partners. The two have feuded over steel, farm subsidies, genetically modified goods, enforcement of trade laws and a variety of other things.


Last year, the Clinton administration imposed tariffs on Louis Vuitton handbags, pecorino cheese, Scottish cashmere and other luxury goods because the European Union would not change its rules for importing bananas.


The aircraft dispute also resonates on both sides of the Atlantic.


The United States maintains that the European rule focuses narrowly on certain aircraft engines, including many used on older Boeing 727 and DC-9 jets that are prevalent in American fleets but not widely used in Europe.


The European rule, if enforced, would also demolish the market for hush kits used to bring older aircraft into compliance with recent noise regulations, industry experts say. Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft engine subsidiary of United Technologies, is a leading manufacturer of the kits.


European officials said the rule protects people who live near the region's congested urban airports and does not discriminate against U.S. aircraft.