Belfast Telegraph

Transatlantic exchanges mount up in bid to solve C Series row

By John Mulgrew

More than 100 calls and meetings have taken place between officials from Westminster, the US and Canadian in a bid to tackle a global trade row between Bombardier and Boeing.

Baroness Rona Fairhead, Minister for Trade and Export Promotion and a former top boss at Bombardier/Shorts, said discussions are "still happening" between Downing Street and officials in the US and Canada, following Boeing's challenge over the sale of the part-Belfast made C Series planes to America.

Boeing has said that Bombardier's tie-in with Airbus - which would see the C Series assembled on US soil - will have no impact on its challenge.

Baroness Fairhead said: "I think we are doing a huge amount. I have just been given the statistics about how many meetings or phone calls have taken place with Canadian officials, the Canadian government, the US Congress, including a number of calls between the Prime Minister and the (US) President.

"With Airbus, over 100 calls and meetings have taken place ... so, huge engagement.

"And I know that the Government has been very positive about the Airbus connection. I think we have made very clear to Boeing that this is not the behaviour you would expect from a partner.

"And the level of engagement is very high... we are continuing to argue that we don't see the negative impact (to Boeing)."

Bombardier is locked in a trade tussle with Boeing, which claims it's selling its C Series passenger planes at below cost, and has been unfairly subsidised by Canada's regional government in Quebec. The US Department of Commerce has since imposed a tariff of almost 300% on sales to America.

It's now understood a final decision from the US administration's International Trade Commission has been proposed for January 25.

Baroness Fairhead was speaking as fresh figures show Northern Ireland exports increased by 13.3% to £8.5bn in the year to September 2017.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) said 34 investment projects came into Northern Ireland during 2016/17, creating around 1,622 new jobs.

But Baroness Fairhead said more could be done. She said NI "has the skills" in areas including advanced manufacturing, financial services, energy and aerospace.

"We have real capability here in value added new technologies which will power the future. It's about us understanding what is here, more, and what are the things that will help," she added.

She said some businesses she had spoken to saw Brexit as an opportunity, with a favourable exchange rate, but that "a number of companies are very concerned".

"It is very understandable why, given the fact that this is the only part of the UK that shares a land border, and so there concerns are about the uncertainty that it is creating, and how they will operate, and how they can come to a good outcome," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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