* EADS unit says it meets qualifications for membership
* US group's rules ban firms with government stakes
* Airbus, Boeing could lobby jointly on some issues-analyst
By Doug Palmer and Tim Hepher
WASHINGTON, Sept 4 Airbus has clashed with the
U.S. aerospace industry over whether it should be allowed to
join its top domestic lobbying group, weeks after announcing
plans to set up jet assembly in Alabama.
Boeing's main rival says its parent, European
aerospace group EADS, should be allowed to take a seat
alongside flagship UK firms Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems
because it has facilities in the U.S. and already
employs thousands of local workers.
It plans to add 1,000 more aerospace industry jobs by
assembling some of its A320 jets in Mobile, Alabama, from 2016.
But it was rebuffed by the head of the Aerospace Industries
Association, who said membership of the 93-year-old club was
reserved for companies without foreign government ownership.
EADS is 15-percent owned by the French government and is in
the throes of seeing a similar stake being acquired by Germany.
"Remember, this is the Aerospace Industry Association of
America. We go back to (U.S. aviation pioneers) Orville Wright
and Glenn Curtiss, who founded this almost a hundred years ago,"
AIA President and Chief Executive Marion Blakey told Reuters.
"We are here to represent the interests of the United States
(industry) and we do not believe it's appropriate for foreign
governments to use AIA to lobby our own," she added.
The U.S. units of Thales and Safran, two
defense companies controlled by the French state, are listed as
associate members, which grants a more limited access to alerts
The AIA was founded in 1919 at a banquet at New York's
Waldorf Astoria hotel to "foster, advance, promulgate and
promote aeronautics...and to do every act and
thing...necessary...for the advancement of American aviation".
It regularly lobbies on behalf of the industry for spending
on new technology to manage America's clogged airways and has
embarked on a campaign ahead of forthcoming U.S. elections to
save jobs threatened by forced cuts to the U.S. defense budget.
For Airbus, being accepted into the fold would boost its
U.S. credentials and help heal the wounds of a bitter tanker
contest and trade disputes against Boeing.
The AIA regularly meets government officials on issues like
defense spending but the head of Airbus Americas dismissed fears
that European governments could interfere with the process,
saying they had full diplomatic channels to press their views.
"We find it strange that AIA seems reluctant to have EADS
and especially Airbus as a member since Airbus is the U.S.
aerospace industry's largest export customer," Barry Eccleston
said, adding "We do meet all the qualifications".
"We buy $12 billion worth of stuff a year from U.S.
aerospace companies, just about all of whom are members of
Marion's organization," he added.
Ecclestone and Blakey were speaking in separate sessions
with Reuters reporters on Tuesday.
U.S. aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton defended Airbus' bid
for AIA membership, which costs up to $400,000 a year.
"There are key issues that Airbus and Boeing have in common:
flight safety, air traffic management, environment, bio-fuel.
There is no reason why Airbus Americas shouldn't be a part of
this group to participate in lobbying Congress for these kinds
of issues," he wrote.
EADS North America could also help lobby against the
prospect of automatic defense cuts, he added.
Blakey, a native of Alabama who certified Europe's A380
superjumbo in a previous role as head of the Federal Aviation
Administration, insisted Airbus was not viewed as a threat.
"Airbus is a partner with many of our companies and our
companies supply Airbus ... but the question is really their
role through AIA."