Belfast Telegraph

Boeing's case against Bombardier unsettling for aerospace businesses in Northern Ireland


Bombardier’s Airport Road factory in Belfast
Bombardier’s Airport Road factory in Belfast
paul everitt

By Paul Everitt, chief executive of ADS

Aerospace manufacturing has a long and proud history in Northern Ireland.

Around 10,000 people here are directly employed in the industry and it is helping to generate £1.3bn a year for the local economy.

Government and industry have forged a successful partnership to help the sector double in size during the next 10 years, creating more high value, long-term jobs.

An aircraft that offers perhaps the greatest potential for the growth of aerospace in Northern Ireland is Bombardier's C Series.

The revolutionary composite wing for this new entrant into the international market is manufactured at state of the art facilities in the company's Belfast factory.

The CS100, with around 110 seats, and the larger CS300 have already found enthusiastic customers in Europe, Asia and North America.

Global orders for new aircraft are at close to record levels, with more than 13,400 currently on the books of manufacturers.

Demand is expected to remain high in the years ahead as the aviation market continues to grow. There is a real opportunity for the C Series to become a significant player and an order from Delta Airlines in the US for 125 C Series aircraft is the model's largest yet.

This is what makes last week's preliminary ruling by the US Department of Commerce to apply tariffs to the C Series in response to a case brought by Boeing extremely disappointing, as well as unsettling for companies and their employees across the aerospace sector in Northern Ireland.

The decision is not final and there is still a long way to go before the end of this process.

A final ruling by the US International Trade Commission is due to be made in February next year.

However, an amicable resolution before this stage is reached would be the best option for Bombardier, for the thousands who work in its Belfast factory, for 800 suppliers in the UK and Ireland, and for the global aerospace sector as a whole.

It has been heartening to hear political leaders in Northern Ireland, Canada and London make clear how seriously they take the threat posed to jobs and growth by this dispute, and show they will defend the interests of Bombardier workers in their engagement with Boeing and the US government.

We now need to see leaders on both sides of the Atlantic working together to find a solution and remove the threat to jobs and growth in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that any support Bombardier has received in the UK is fully compliant with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, and Boeing has not brought a case through WTO procedures.

All major aircraft manufacturers around the world have received some form of support from governments to help manage the costs and risks associated with researching and designing new aircraft, whether in the UK, Europe, Brazil or the US.

Aerospace is a truly global industry, a low tariff sector built on openness to trade between its major manufacturing nations. To build a complete aircraft, extensive supply chains cross multiple borders as companies in different countries each contribute key components towards the final assembly.

Tariffs destroy trade and reduce the choices available to consumers, preventing them from seeing the benefits of innovation and productivity that are driven by healthy commercial competition.

In the UK aerospace industry we expect all those involved to work hard to reach a resolution as soon as possible and allow the C Series to continue its ascent - flying on wings made in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph