Belfast Telegraph

Airbus sealed 'deal of century' buying stake in C Series

By Margaret Canning

Aerospace giant Airbus got the "deal of the century" when it acquired a majority share in Bombardier's C Series, a House of Commons committee has heard.

Representatives of trade union Unite were giving evidence as part of an NI Affairs Committee inquiry into tariffs imposed by the US following action by rival Boeing on the C Series aircraft, the wings of which are made in Belfast.

The committee is probing the possible impact on jobs in the city if a preliminary decision to impose the tariffs is ratified in February. Around 1,000 of Bombardier's 4,000-strong workforce create the wings of the C Series.

DUP MP Ian Paisley told the committee he had emailed US President Donald Trump over the crisis.

Responding to a suggestion that America is treating Bombardier as a "test case" in enforcing more protectionist trade policies from the administration, the North Antrim representative said: "It's very easy to blame Trump but I think he's the wrong enemy in the room. I emailed him twice over this issue.

"I'm reluctant to say what was said but I thought it was my duty to engage with him on this issue." Last month, Airbus announced it had acquired a majority stake in the C Series programme.

The planes will be assembled in its Alabama facility in the US, in a bid to circumvent the American tariffs.

Unite representative Jimmy Kelly said Airbus had got the "deal of the century" as it hadn't sold an A318 or A319 - its offering in the short to medium-bodied, narrow passenger jet - "in years".

And he claimed Boeing was cheating the US public out of a good experience.

"What has happened is denying the US public a chance to fly in a far, far superior aircraft. It's environmentally friendly and outperforming all the things it's been set," Mr Kelly said.

Mr Paisley said the US had a track record of stifling aviation competition.

He added: "It's almost like deja vu. The US effectively destroyed Concorde by their conduct - no doubt there's an attempt by a large company to flex its muscle to destroy another aircraft."

But he said problems with major manufacturers were compounded by the province's low productivity and more businesspeople in the mould of Wrightbus co-founder William Wright are needed.

Mr Paisley said: "How do we get the next 10 Willie Wrights out of Northern Ireland instead of the next 10 lawyers? He's one of the most creative geniuses."

Belfast Telegraph

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