US tariff decision 'could see Bombardier question the economics of staying here'
Bombardier "could question" remaining in Northern Ireland after it was a dealt a body blow which could risk the future of thousands of workers here. A US government decision to back Boeing in a trade dispute has been blasted as "nonsense".
An initial ruling means Bombardier, which employs more than 4,000 staff here, could be hit with a massive 220% trade tariff on the sale of all of its part-made flagship C Series jets to the US.
It could also scupper a multi-billion dollar deal for up to 125 of the aircraft to Delta.
The decision has been criticised as an "opportunistic punt and protectionism".
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "bitterly disappointed" at the decision, and vowed to work to protect jobs at Bombardier in Northern Ireland.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, said: "A total of 1,000 work on the manufacture of the wings for the new C Series aircraft and the company also employs many more in the supply chain.
"It is imperative that the British Government works to protect these vital jobs - the imposition of the tariffs could make Bombardier question remaining in Northern Ireland, where it has operations in four locations."
However, Paul Everitt of industry body ADS said while the ruling is "extremely disappointing and unsettling for Northern Ireland's aerospace industry", it is a "preliminary ruling and there is still a long way to go in this process".
Bombardier described the decision as "absurd and divorced from reality".
"There is wide consensus within the industry on this point, as well as a growing chorus of voices, including airlines, consumer groups, trade experts and many others who have come forward to express grave concerns with Boeing's attempt to force US airlines to buy less efficient planes with configurations they do not want and economics that do not deliver value," it said.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said that the Department of Commerce decision was "in our view, nonsense".
"They've ruled to put a punitive tariff on an aircraft which doesn't compete against the complainant and one which has a large US manufactured input from engines to electronics to seating.
"There is no injury to Boeing or US workers, this is simply an opportunistic punt and protectionism, but it is workers across who could be suffering... the implications from this ruling could be severely felt by Northern Ireland firms looking to access not only the US, but in the future the EU single market."
One of Bombardier's supply chain businesses, Denroy Plastics, based in Bangor, said that "in the interim we anticipate no changes or disruption in our supply of components to Bombardier on the C Series programme or any of the other aerospace programmes which we supply".
"We would hope and expect that a resolution can be found to this issue," finance director Kevin McNamee said.
"We appreciate that this announcement is only a preliminary ruling, and we anticipate that this issue will be resolved long before any further difficulties arise."
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, said the decision "reinforces the need for the swift return of an inclusive devolved government".
"Government and business must work in partnership to deliver a new far-reaching industrial strategy to improve regional resilience, economic competitiveness and facilitate growth," she added.
"With jobs and future prosperity in the region being put at risk by decisions made far away from Belfast, we need a devolved government that can speak up for and champion the needs of the local workers and businesses most affected."