Protectionism Not Good in Tanker Deal: EADS

Protectionism is not good for anybody and could hurt trans-Atlantic relations, the chief executives of EADS and Northrop Grumman told CNBC referring to the largest-ever tanker deal, which last week was reopened by the US department of defense.

The two aerospace giants in February won a $35 billion contract with the US Air Force to start building 179 new refueling planes.

But the Pentagon reversed the decision following protests from rival aerospace company Boeing and a recommendation by the Government Accountability office, which found that the Air Force had made significant errors in the procurement process.

EADS CEO Louis Gallois voiced confidence that the group and its US partner will once again win the bid.

"We won five competitions in a row ... We have the best airplane and we want to sell it," he said in an interview at the Farnborough Airshow.

While agreeing that the procedural flaws in the original bidding process need to be addressed, the executives said politics should not be involved.

Northrop Grumman CEO Ronald Sugar warned of a "political overlay" in the US defense procurement procedure, where, he said, a small number of members of Congress were merely looking out for their constituencies, particularly to keep jobs in their districts.

Both executives stressed that the aerospace industry is becoming increasingly global and that EADS should be not be viewed through protectionist lenses.

EADS should be "considered as an American citizen," Gallois said.

- Writen by Noelle Murbach-Lami