PARIS (Reuters) - A bureaucratic spat over just one letter in Europe’s identity has been solved despite failure to reach agreement in a major trade row over aircraft subsidies.
The European Union has complained about the “irritating U.S. habit” of referring to the 27-nation trade bloc under the term “EC,” which is short for European Communities, according to a World Trade Organisation report unveiled on Wednesday.
The bloc officially changed its name to the European Union — or “EU” — in December 2009, when the 2007 Lisbon Treaty came into force. But in practice the new name has been used by Europeans for almost 20 years.
The EU complained about Washington’s use of the older term “EC” as part of more than 1,000 pages of newly released submissions and findings in the world’s biggest trade dispute, in which the WTO found Airbus had received illegal subsidies.
The complaint gave rise to careful consideration by judges at the Geneva-based WTO, which exists to protect free trade but tries to do so without offending its 150 member nations.
The trans-atlantic aircraft subsidy dispute has been running so long most submissions pre-dated the European name change and is likely to drag on even longer through further appeals.
In a compromise the WTO decided to use the term EC in the report, but to add a footnote saying the EC was now the EU.
In other sensitive areas, it was instructed by European officials to refer to a factory in Wales rather than Britain and to ensure government departments were “UK” and not “British.”
“Sometimes these reports are all about the art of the trivial,” commented a European aviation industry official.
Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Matthew Jones