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‘Narrow protectionism’ preventing US making right decision to ground Boeing 737 Max-8 flight


Source: Global Times    Published: 2019-3-15

While a growing number of countries are grounding Boeing 737 Max-8 flights following the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet, the US seems to be less decisive about the company that holds a powerful position in the country's political and economic landscape.

The Canadian government said Wednesday it is temporarily grounding Boeing 737 Max planes and barring them from the country's airspace, according to media reports.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Air said it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 Max-8 aircraft in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Reuters reported.

The Oslo-based airline has 18 Max passenger jets in its 163-aircraft fleet.

On Wednesday, the Boeing 737 Max was banned from Lebanese airports and airspace, and Thai authorities followed suit. China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will impose a temporary ban on Boeing 737 Max jets starting 6 pm, Bloomberg reported.

However, US aviation regulators still issued a global notice of continued airworthiness notification for the jet, which has caused a combined 346 deaths from two crashes within five months.

Out of safety concerns, the US should have grounded the jet as other countries have done, but its "narrow protectionism" is holding the country from making the right decision, He Weiwen, an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Echoing He, Wang Jun, deputy director of the department of information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Global Times on Wednesday that "The US is apparently putting its interests ahead of the safety of its people."

Wang explained that aircraft and automobile manufacturing are the two pillar industries of the US economy.

Considering its significance to employment, foreign trade and capital market, the US would not easily ground the company's flights domestically.

"The US has shown the world what 'narrow protectionism' is in the Boeing case," He said.

The top 20 US-based aerospace and defense companies, including Boeing, saw a 3.3 percent increase in revenues to $368.8 billion in 2017, according to a report of consulting firm Deloitte.

Boeing's 2018 revenue rose by 8 percent year-on-year to $101.13 billion.

US GDP grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter last year, bringing 2018's annual growth to 2.9 percent, according to the US Commerce Department.

Boeing reportedly spent millions to lobby the US Congress and the executive branch each year, according to CNN on Tuesday.

The report said that last year, Boeing spent $15.1 million on lobbying, ranking 10th in lobbying activity that year in Washington.

Boeing shares climbed 0.8 percent in morning trading on Wednesday on Wall Street after a two-day decline.

The US is not alone in refusing to ground the aircraft. Canada's Transport Minister said its government is considering "all potential actions" but has yet to follow its European counterparts, reported Wednesday.

"Canada always follows the US. But in this case, it might need to think twice," Wang said.

Growing response

China was the first country to announce the grounding of 737 Max-8 jets, followed by European countries.

Starting Monday, in response to the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 on Sunday, more countries have grounded the narrow-bodied series aircraft.

Aviation authorities from more than 50 countries and regions have halted 737 Max flights, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada and WestJet are still using the jet, according to data collected by the New York Times on Wednesday.

He Weiwen noted that everyone knows that in the face of safety concerns, business interests should be put aside. That's also why some of US allies, such as those in Europe, have turned away from it this time.

Regardless of pressure at home, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday issued a continued airworthiness notification for the Boeing 737 Max-8, and Boeing also said on Tuesday that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time.

The FAA said Tuesday it continues to extensively review all available data and the safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 Max. Its review  provides no basis to order the grounding of the aircraft, it said.

He cautioned that as the final investigation report has not yet been released, people should hold a reasonable attitude toward Boeing, which also has many reliable models that carry millions of people around the world every day.

The black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines plane will be sent overseas for analysis, Reuters reported Wednesday.

"If Boeing does not properly take care of the case, public concerns might spread to its other fleets. Indeed, it already has in China," Wang said.

He Weiwen is a senior fellow from Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: Boeing   ban   safety   He Weiwen  

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