Bombardier job fears over crippling US tariff of 219.63% in Boeing row
A punishing tariff on Bombardier planes exported to the US "is absurd and divorced from the reality about the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programs", the company said this morning.
A preliminary finding from the US Department of Commerce in an international trade dispute means Canadian-owned Bombardier faces an intermediary tariff of 219.63%.
The news has led to fears for the future of the aerospace company's east Belfast operation, which makes the wings for the C Series of passenger jets - the plane at the centre of the dispute.
Bombardier supports hundreds of other jobs through its suppliers and has been a major employer in Northern Ireland for almost 30 years.
Rival Boeing claimed Bombardier received unfair state subsidies from the UK and Canada, allowing the sale of airliners at below cost prices in the US. Bombardier is due to begin delivering a blockbuster order for up to 125 new jets to Atlanta-based Delta Airlines next year.
Last night, in a preliminary finding by the US Department of Commerce, 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."
In a statement, Bombardier said it strongly disagreed with the preliminary decision.
"The magnitude of the proposed duty is absurd and divorced from the reality about the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programs," it said.
"This result underscores what we have been saying for months: the US trade laws were never intended to be used in this manner, and Boeing is seeking to use a skewed process to stifle competition and prevent US airlines and their passengers from benefiting from the C Series."
The firm added: "The US government should reject Boeing's attempt to unfairly tilt the playing field in its favour and to impose an indirect tax on the flying public through unjustified import tariffs."
It is expected to be February before a final ruling is made.
The operation's immediate future was secured after Bombardier signed a $5.6 billion (£4.15bn) deal last year to provide its new aircraft to Delta Airlines. Unions said this could now potentially be jeopardised.
Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said the decision "is unlikely to be overturned by President Trump whose protectionist tendencies are well-known".
"The threat of punitive tariffs on the C Series will cast a shadow over Bombardier's future unless the company can source alternative and substantial sales outside the US market," he said.
"Today's decision in favour of Boeing's allegations of anti-competitive pricing poses a direct and very serious threat to the 4,500 Bombardier jobs in Belfast and many more dependent on them across our service sector and in the wider supply chain."
DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA described it as "a very disappointing determination, but it is not the end of the process".
"The C Series is a hugely innovative aircraft that is vital to Bombardier's operations in Belfast. It is this innovation that sets the C Series apart and it is not in direct competition with Boeing," she said.
"It is important that representations continue between government and the administrations in Canada and the US as well as with the two companies. There has been recognition in London of how important the success of C Series is to Northern Ireland and I would urge efforts from Ministers to continue."
DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "This is a very worrying time for the staff working at Bombardier and for the wider community in East Belfast."
Alliance leader Naomi Long said the decision, while disappointing, was not the final outcome in the dispute.
"Clearly, this is a worrying time for staff employed in Bombardier and their supply chain: we need the US, Canadian and UK governments to settle this reasonably and quickly," the East Belfast MLA said.
Ulster Unionist East Belfast MLA Andy Allen said he was "really concerned about the potential consequences on Bombardier's Belfast workforce" and described the tariff as "outrageous".
"The UK Government, working in conjunction with the Canadian Government, needs to do everything it can to get the US Department of Commerce preliminary finding reversed when it comes before the US International Trade Commission in February," he said. "Boeing's fixation with Bombardier could potentially put hundreds of hardworking people out of work, along with many more in associated roles."
SDLP Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone described the announcement as "bad news". He said on Facebook: "So much for Theresa May's 'special relationship' with Trump and the US administration."
Ian Sheppard, Chairman of the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland, called for a "speedy resolution to the current dispute".