Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier hit by massive blow in Boeing dispute

By John Mulgrew

Bombardier in Northern Ireland has been dealt a massive blow putting hundreds of jobs at risk after the US government ruled against it amid a transatlantic trade dispute.

A preliminary finding from the US Department of Commerce imposed an intermediary tariff of 219.63%.

The decision centres around whether the Canadian-owned plane-making giant benefited from government subsidies from the UK and Canada.

US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said: "The US values its relationships with Canada, but even our closest allies must play by the rules.

"The subsidisation of goods by foreign governments is something that the Trump Administration takes very seriously, and we will continue to evaluate and verify the accuracy of this preliminary determination."

Bombardier employs around 4,500 staff in Northern Ireland, with up to 1,000 working on the C Series planes.

Concerns over the knock-on effect to the workforce here prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to raise the issue directly with a phone call to US President Donald Trump.

She also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, last week.

A second ruling will follow next month, over alleged 'dumping' of the aircraft – selling the planes at a cut-price.

It could now scupper a multi-billion deal with Delta for up to 125 aircraft, effectively price out and cut off its largest market, the US, and lead to hundreds of job losses.

A ruling against Bombardier could see Delta having to pay duties on every plane it receives.

A final decision in the US isn't likely to come until next year, around May or June.

But Bombardier will also have the chance to appeal the decision further up the food chain still,  to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Earlier this month, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill sent a letter to US Vice President Mike Pence over the "very grave economic threat" facing Bombardier in Northern Ireland, warning it could have repercussions for the peace process.

The trade dispute, which has major implications for jobs in Northern Ireland, is unjustified and unwarranted, the British Government said.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said: "The UK Government believes clearly that the support that we have given through repayable launch investment to the C Series project is legitimate, is lawful, is within World Trade Organisation rules and therefore that the actions that have been brought around this case are unwarranted."

Industry experts and trade unions have warned over the drastic impact the decision could have on the workforce in Northern Ireland.

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