Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier tariff ruling: Union appeals to government to step up or Belfast jobs ‘crushed’

By Jonathan Bell

The UK Government was called to step up to the plate or Bombardier jobs in Belfast would be “crushed” after a devastating US tariff on the company's C-Series planes was upheld.

Commerce officials in Washington found the Canadian aerospace manufacturer sold its C-Series passenger jet at almost 80% under their value in a £5billion deal to Delta Airlines as well as benefiting from massive government subsidies. However, in its final ruling it reduced an initial 299% tariff to 292%.

It also ruled that a deal with Airbus - which would see the plane part built on US soil - would not allow it to circumvent the tariffs.

However, the ultimate decision to introduce the punitive tariffs will not be finalised until the US International Trade Commission (ITC) determines if Boeing, which lodged the initial complaint, was harmed by the subsidies and the ‘price dumping’. It will rule at the beginning of February.

Boeing complained after a deal for up to 75 of the C Series jets were sold to Delta Airlines in a dispute that has drawn in Prime Minister Theresa May, US President Donald Trump and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. The EU also waded into the dispute backing Bombardier.

The planes wings are built in Belfast and the company has said its future operations in the city are crucial to the success of the narrow-bodied jet.

Bombardier said Boeing’s actions represented an “unfounded assault on airlines, the flying public, and the U.S. aerospace industry,” following the ruling.

“The Commerce Department decision is divorced from this reality and ignores long-standing business practices in the aerospace industry,” said Bombardier’s Vice President Mike Nadolski.

“We are deeply disappointed it did not take this opportunity to rectify its past errors.”

Mr Nadolski said they were confident the ITC would overturn the decision.

“The fact is the C Series simply does not threaten Boeing. Boeing did not compete in the Delta campaign. It has not made a plane sized to Delta’s needs for many years.”

Assistant general secretary of the trade union Unite Steve Turner described the decision as “nakedly political” with the “potential to crush jobs, not only in Northern Ireland but also in the US.

“More than 50% of C Series components are sourced from the US, where the supply chain sustains 22,000 US jobs. The economic impact of these tariffs would be felt in communities on both sides of the Atlantic."

He added: "The UK government, despite handing out defence contracts to Boeing amounting to more than £4.6bn, have provided no answers to the threat hanging over workers.

“Ministers have not even hinted at challenging future contracts with Boeing. When we asked what action they had taken to defend jobs, we were lamely told that Theresa May had rang Donald Trump.

“The UK government has to start forcefully backing Bombardier workers.”

Unite travelled to the US in the past week to lobby for the decision, first made in September, to be overturned. While the ruling was expected, local workers were said to be disappointed but hopeful February’s decision would go their way.

“If we are given a fair and equitable hearing at the ITC then the tariff will be overturned, there has been no damage done to Boeing,” regional organiser Davy Thompson said.

“This has come from Trump’s 'America first' policy and we would hope the British Government would step up to the plate and help fight our cause.”

He added: “It has been a demoralising time for Bombardier workers. It is going through a redundancy phase on separate matters but its hoped the link-up with Airbus will be a game-changer. While the US represents a third of the market there is still scope for the plane to be sold.”

Boeing welcomed the ruling saying its aim was for business to be on a level playing field across the industry.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added: “This decision is based on a full and unbiased review of the facts in an open and transparent process.

“The United States is committed to a free, fair, and reciprocal trade and will always stand up for American workers and companies being harmed by unfair imports.”

A Government spokesman said: "This decision by the Department of Commerce is disappointing and damages the global aerospace industry. Though this judgment was widely anticipated given the initial action also found in favour of Boeing, we fundamentally disagree that this determination is justified by the facts.

"The next step is for the US International Trade Commission to decide on the impact, if any. We will continue to work alongside our counterparts in Northern Ireland and Canada, Bombardier and Airbus to resolve this matter."

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