WASHINGTON (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus on Tuesday said its parent company, EADS EAD.PA, should be allowed to join the U.S. aerospace industry's main lobbying group because it has production facilities in the United States, employs thousands of workers, and buys $12 billion worth of U.S. aerospace goods each year.
"We do meet all the qualifications," Barry Eccleston, president and chief executive officer of Airbus Americas Inc, told Reuters in an interview.
"It's simply a question of AIA (Aerospace Industries Association) deciding that they want to allow EADS to come in and be a member."
AIA's 360 full and associate members include Boeing (BA.N), which competes with EADS and Airbus for defense and civilian aircraft sales.
Airbus, in an effort to boost its 20 percent share of the U.S. civilian aircraft market, decided this year to build its first U.S. production facility in Alabama.
AIA President Marion Blakey, in a separate session with Reuters, said the industry group's constitution prohibits EADS from joining because its shareholders include the French and German governments, and that would essentially put the group in the position of lobbying on behalf foreign governments.
"Remember, this is the Aerospace Industry Association of America. We go back to (U.S. aviation pioneers) Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss, who founded this almost a hundred years ago," Blakey said.
"We are here to represent the interests of the United States (industry) and we do not believe its appropriate for foreign governments to use AIA to lobby our own," she added.
Eccleston rejected that argument, noting European governments had embassies to represent their interests in Washington and would not need to use the industry group.
"We find it strange that AIA seems reluctant to have EADS and especially Airbus as a member since Airbus is the U.S. aerospace industry's largest export customer. We buy $12 billion worth of stuff a year from U.S. aerospace companies, just about all of whom are members of Marion's organization," he said.
Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Doug Palmer; Editing by Chris Gallagher