Loser's Lament: Delta Air Sues US Ex-Im Bank

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 4/05/2013 05:02:00 PM
The hapless and pathetic US carrier Delta Airlines seems less interested nowadays in running a viable business than in taking on quixotic wild goose chases. A few months ago it made the headlines by buying an oil refinery to help bring its costs under control. Nevermind that it's the cost of crude oil that's particularly high and not that of refining it, but hey, it made for a pretty good 5-minute publicity stunt if it did not neccessarily improve Delta's bottom line.

Now we have another act of desperation with virtually no chance of paying off: Delta has filed a case against the American Export-Import Bank for allegedly providing "subsidies" to foreign carriers it is in competition with by offering export finance to Boeing when it sells jetliners abroad. Aside from the sheer chutzpah of believing that the US government would prioritize the interests of a constant drag on its purse alike the airline industry at the expense of a viable export industry alike commercial jet exports, the term "subsidy" is arguably being abused here.

How does export finance effectively reduce the purchase price of aircraft to foreign carriers? That is the question Delta will have to build a case on. Export finance is exceedingly common especially in countries with sizeable exports. And, of course, the WTO would not entertain a case in which a domestic firm sued its own government--it's always a government taking a case against another country or countries on behalf of a firm domiciled in its boundaries. At any rate, here's to Delta for the comic relief in an otherwise bleak Stateside airline industry:
Delta Air Lines Inc has sued the Export-Import Bank of the United States over loan guarantees given to support purchases of Boeing Co's widebody planes by certain foreign airlines, according to a court filing. Delta said that Ex-Im bank's subsidies to foreign airlines, including Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways and Korean Air Co Ltd, to help them buy Boeing planes would cause adverse economic effects on airlines and their employees.

Delta said in the filing that the bank did not properly analyze the adverse economic impact and has requested the district court in Washington D.C. block any loan guarantees...In a complaint filed in federal court in Washington D.C. late on Wednesday, Delta said one of the types of exports that Ex-Im Bank subsidizes is the export of aircraft by U.S. manufacturers, especially ones made by Boeing.

"In 2012, the bank's total exposure to outstanding financial commitments was $106.6 billion. About 46 percent of this amount was for air transportation loans and loan guarantees, more than the three next largest industrial sectors combined," Delta said in the filing.

Delta said the Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees help lower the cost of capital for foreign airline companies. "These foreign airlines will recoup their investment in their new aircraft faster or reduce ticket prices on competing routes without adversely impacting their relative rate of return on those investments," Delta said in the filing. Delta argued that unsubsidized U.S. airlines will be forced to respond by "reducing their prices and reducing or altogether eliminating their capacity to serve those routes where they compete with bank-subsidized foreign airlines."
The whole point of trade finance is to make goods alike American-made jetliners available for purchase in LDCs where commercial finance is not sophisticated enough. To brand this kind of activity "illegal" would hurt any number of American exporting industries by precedent.

Why would the US sacrifice substantial exports to satisfy the (protectionist) interests of an utterly substandard airline like Delta? Even in present-day America, rewarding mediocrity has its limits.