Belfast Telegraph

UK 'must take note of aggressive US' after Bombardier dispute

Warning: Dr Andrew Murrison
Warning: Dr Andrew Murrison

By John Mulgrew

The UK government should take "careful note of the readiness of an American interest to take an aggressive stance" following a "spurious" international trade challenge against Bombardier which threatened thousands of Northern Ireland jobs.

Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland breathed a sigh of relief when the US International Trade Commission ruled in its favour after a challenge by American rival Boeing. The firm had been facing a 292% tariff on the sale of its part-Belfast made planes to the US.

Now, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has said the decision "should be celebrated" and that "with the threat of tariffs lifted Bombardier will expand its operations and thrive".

But it warned that the government should be aware of America's aggressive stance to defending its own business interests.

And it also said that it should "no longer assume" that its loan investments, which Bombardier received and which Boeing objected to, "are low risk and will always be compliant".

"The government should conduct an audit of all 'repayable investment loan' provisions or similar it has made to UK companies," a committee report said.

"Risk assessments should be then conducted, particularly where companies have significant business in the US market.

"Any audit and risk assessment should also consider companies where funding has come from other governments but where punitive measures such as tariffs could have a significant impact on UK workers."

The committee report continued: "We welcome the determination by the International Trade Commission that C Series imports do not harm, or threaten to harm, the US domestic industry.

"This is, in our view, the correct determination and vindicates the clear evidence we heard that Boeing has suffered no harm and is consistent with Boeing's unconvincing evidence to the contrary. The government should, however, take careful note of the readiness of an American interest to take an aggressive stance."

The case emanated from a Delta Airlines order for 75, and up to 125, of its C Series planes.

And committee chairman Dr Andrew Murrison MP said that "thankfully the right decision has been made on punitive tariffs".

He added: "It's such a relief for workers and the Northern Ireland economy but we are left wondering about the needless damage Boeing's flimsy claims might have caused.

"The government must ensure that UK-based businesses are watertight against such speculative action in the future. UK workers cannot become collateral in disputes between multi-nationals.

"When spurious complaints like Boeing's can mean months of uncertainty for UK workers, the government must be robust. If companies are willing to take action that directly harms the UK economy and, potentially security, they should expect a frosty reception when tendering for contracts.

"Finally, a big well done to those who fought tirelessly to protect vital jobs in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph