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United States | Brussels, 9 March 2010

Statement on US refuelling tanker programme announcement

The European Commission notes the decision announced on 8th March by Northrop Grumman / EADS not to submit a bid to the US Department of Defence contract for the US Air Force’s aerial refuelling tanker programme.

"It is highly regrettable that a major potential supplier would feel unable to bid for a contract of this type. Open procurement markets guarantee better competition and better value for money for the taxpayer", stated Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

In February 2008, Northrop Grumman / EADS was selected and awarded the contract to provide aerial refuelling tankers for the US Air Force in a fair and transparent competition. This was a positive sign for free and open competition across the Atlantic. This also seemed to indicate that successful bids are possible when European industry teams up with US industry and they are allowed to compete fairly. This award was subsequently cancelled at the end of 2008.

In December 2009, Northrop Grumman / EADS expressed serious concerns to the Department of Defence and the US Air Force on the proposed acquisition criteria for the contract.

The European Commission would be extremely concerned if it were to emerge that the terms of tender were such as to inhibit open competition for the contract.

The US defence trade balance with the EU has traditionally been significantly in the US' favour. In 2008 the US exported $5 billion and imported only $2.2 billion worth of defence material, in line with a historic ratio of double exports to imports.

The Commission will be following further developments in this case very closely.