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Cablegate: New Airbus A380 Takes Flight, Amid Much Crowing

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 002904

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EB/TPP, EUR/ERA, EUR/WE, EUR/PPD,
COMMERCE FOR NAAS
DEPARTMENT OF COMEMRCE FOR ITA
STATE FOR USTR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ETRD PREL FR
SUBJECT: NEW AIRBUS A380 TAKES FLIGHT, AMID MUCH CROWING
(AND SWIPES AT THE U.S. AND BOEING)

NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Amid much media hoopla and self-
congratulation from politicians and commentators, Airbus
launched its double-decker A380 on its maiden flight April
27. The four-hour flight from Toulouse of the world's
largest passenger jet was witnessed by close to 50,000
visitors on the same Blagnac airfield that launched the
Concorde in 1969. With the A380 aircraft's flight taking on
all kinds of symbolic significance, French television and
newspapers were filled with lyrical tributes to the kind of
European ingenuity and cooperation that the multinational
Airbus represents, including its public subsidies. There
were few references to the pioneering role that U.S.
technology has played in past and present Airbus aircraft,
nor to the debt it owes to Boeing's 747 jumbo jet, whose
passenger service started in 1969. More than few
commentators chose to dwell on the transatlantic rivalry
between Airbus and Boeing, taking Boeing (read the United
States) to task for announcing its good news on orders from
Canada and India the same week, criticizing Boeing's
decision to challenge Airbus's and its public subsidies, and
even hinting at U.S. espionage in Toulouse. END SUMMARY.

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THE AIRBUS AND ... THE CONSTITUTION!
--------------------------------------

2. (U) The French press doted heavily on the symbolism of
the aircraft's flight and its significance for Europe. The
left-of-center daily Liberation's giant headlines read
"Europe takes off" over a photo of the new aircraft. The
article notes somewhat cynically that politicians on both
sides of the aisle are scrambling to take credit for the
success of the "super jumbo", even linking it to the
proposed European Constitution. "Airbus' success commands us
to advance towards the Europe of which this constitution
lays the foundations", read the daily's editorial. Le
Figaro's (right-of-center daily) headlines read "Europe's
Wings" and calls the Airbus A380 project a "political leap
of faith". Only "Le Monde"'s front-page cartoon showed the
Airbus flying through the sky, with another plane, the
European Union, grounded on the airfield.


PRAISE FOR INDUSTRIAL POLICY
------------------------------

3. (U) But the French media focused also on the
transatlantic rivalry between Airbus and Boeing, using the
opportunity to take potshots at Boeing and the United
States. Le Figaro's April 27 editorial hails Airbus's
success with the A380 as managing to "challenge, on its own
territory, its American rival's crushing dominance". Most
other dailies noted that Airbus now has the more challenging
task of selling the A380 and making it a commercial success
as well. Many news stories also pointed to Boeing's
announcement of good news on sales of aircraft to Air Canada
and Air India as the American company's attempt to rain on
Airbus' parade.

4. (U) The Figaro editorial goes on to praise Airbus's
public "financing model" and echoing President Jacques
Chirac's frequent comments, urges an "Airbus" approach for
"European projects in other areas such as communications,
health care or biotechnology". Le Figaro charges Boeing
with hypocrisy for accusing Airbus of receiving public funds
for its projects, and it alleges that the "Boeing system
functions, if not more so" with public monies. Finally,
Liberation expressed its approval that the A380 project and
its financing are "running counter to . free market
ideology".

ECONOMIC INTELLIGENCE AGENTS
----------------------------

5. (SBU) The tabloid Le Parisien's headlines were blunter,
proclaiming "Airbus scores one against Boeing". The populist
daily, however, goes further, highlighting the interest that
Airbus's success might have for "economic intelligence
agents" in Toulouse, and reports that the French
intelligence agencies have often targeted the U.S. Consulate
in Toulouse. Indeed, there have been several references in
the popular regional press to the American Presence Post
(APP) in Toulouse and its implied role in "economic
intelligence" gathering, particularly targeting Airbus.
(The Embassy is asking for the journal in question, "La
Depeche du Midi," to print a letter from the Charge
clarifying the APP's real role in the region.)

6. COMMENT. As with the Euro, the flight of the Airbus
A380 is a point of great pride among ordinary French
citizens as well as politicians. It is easy to understand
the desire to emphasize such a positive "European"
development, rather than dwell on all the negatives, i.e.
the disenchantment of voters over a proposed EU
constitution, Turkey's future with the EU, the accession of
10 new countries, the failure of the Services Directive and
other difficult dossiers. But while a justifiable source of
pride, it is also an opportunity for some to reinforce the
wrongheaded (but populist) notion that the EU is always best
defined in opposition to the United States. We need to
watch carefully to ensure that this doesn't get out of hand.
END COMMENT.

Rosenblatt

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