Bombardier workers' anxious wait for verdict over US import tariffs
Workers at the Bombardier factory in Belfast were last night waiting to find out if a US government department would stick with its decision to impose punishing import tariffs on the plane manufacturer.
The US Department of Commerce has already made a preliminary decision to impose tariffs totalling 300% on American sales of Canadian company Bombardier's C Series jet, which is part-made in Belfast.
It followed a complaint from rival aerospace manufacturer Boeing that Bombardier received unfair State subsidies which enabled it to sell its C Series jets in the UK much more cheaply than it should have.
The move by Boeing was in response to a deal for up to 75 C Series passenger planes with Delta Airlines in the US.
But Bombardier then announced a tie-in with European aviation giant Airbus, meaning that the narrow-bodied C Series jet would be assembled in the US.
Bombardier argues that it would not be classed as an import when its planes rolled of a US production line.
The Department of Commerce was last night due to issue its final determination on Bombardier, which employs 4,000 people in Northern Ireland, although another body could overrule that.
Around 25% of the workforce carries out manufacture of the C Series wings.
Meanwhile, the body that will make the ultimate decision - the US International Trade Commission - has heard evidence from Bombardier and Boeing in its investigation.
And while staff at Bombardier in Belfast were closely watching developments last night, it's understood the ITC ruling will be regarded as the make-or-break decision.
Bombardier has this week presented evidence to the commission, defending accusations that the C Series has benefited from unfair subsidies. Mike Nadolksi from Bombardier said evidence presented to the commission showed that Boeing's petition was "an unfounded assault on airlines, the flying public and the US aerospace industry".
And he said that a new assembly line to be built by Bombardier and Airbus in Alabama would create 400 to 500 jobs. He said the firm had presented evidence that the C Series "simply does not threaten Boeing".
But according to the BBC report on the ITC hearing, Boeing believes it has "established beyond question that Bombardier has taken billions of dollars in illegal government subsidies to prop up its C Series programme. The C Series would not even exist at this point but for those subsidies".
The ITC will issue its finding at the end of January or early February and could set aside the findings of the US Department of Commerce.