Bombardier makes the wings for its C Series model at a factory in Belfast ©Bombardier
Bombardier makes the wings for its C Series model at a factory in Belfast ©Bombardier

UK supplier threatened in Boeing trade row

12 September 2017

The prime minister has called US president Donald Trump over a trade dispute that is threatening jobs at a Bombardier plant in Northern Ireland.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Commission is currently investigating claims made by US firm Boeing that its Canadian rival, Bombardier, sold planes in the US in a deal that was unfairly subsidised by the Canadian state.

The dispute has reached the UK because Bombardier makes the wings for the aeroplane in question, its C Series model, at a factory in Belfast. Some 4,500 people work at the factory.

A spokesman for Boeing said: “Boeing had to take action as subsidised competition has hurt us now and will continue to hurt us for years to come, and we could not stand by given this clear case of illegal dumping.”

Bombardier described Boeing’s petition as “unfounded”.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed that May had raised the issue in a call to Trump last week, alongside her concerns about its implications on jobs, and that ministers had petitioned Boeing directly to drop the trade suit.

The spokesman for BEIS said: “This is a commercial matter but the UK government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.

“Ministers across government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, Bombardier, the US and Canadian governments. Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier.” 

Business secretary Greg Clark has travelled to Chicago to meet with Boeing chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg in person, the spokesman said.

In addition both Clark and energy and industry minister Richard Harrington have spoken with Boeing on multiple occasions to persuade the firm to drop or settle the case and point out the harm the dispute will do to US suppliers, he added.

The Boeing spokesman said: “We believe that global trade only works if everyone plays by the same rules of the road, and that’s a principle that ultimately creates the greatest value for Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and our aerospace industry.”

A spokesman for Bombardier said said: “Boeing’s petition is an unfounded assault on airlines... We are very confident the UK government understands what is at stake... and, we certainly encourage [its] support on behalf of our thousands of highly skilled employees in Northern Ireland and hundreds of suppliers across the UK.”

The US Department of Commerce is expected to make its ruling later this month and could potentially penalise Bombardier with punitive tariffs, making it difficult for the manufacture to make future sales of the C Series in the US.

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