WASHINGTON, March 30 U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday bidding on a contract to build aerial refueling tankers will be free and fair.
"What I said to President Sarkozy is that the process will be free and fair and that the trust is justified," Obama said at a news conference with his French counterpart.
"Here the secretary of defense makes procurement decisions. The president does not meddle in these issues and that's a long-standing policy," Obama said.
Obama said he had assurances from Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, that the rebidding process is going to be completely transparent, open and fair.
Europe's EADS EAD.PA and Northrop (NOC.N) won the previous tanker contract from the U.S. Air Force in 2008, but Gates canceled that deal after government auditors faulted the Air Force's procurement process and uphold a protest by Boeing.
Sarkozy said EADS would bid if the process is fair and said he trusted Obama's assurances.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Sandra Maler)