Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein and DUP join forces to press US over Boeing and Bombardier dispute

Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party have joined forces in a bid to pressurise the US government into helping resolve the bitter aerospace trade dispute between Boeing and Bombardier.

The political rivals, who have been unable to reach agreement to restore Northern Ireland's failed government, have issued a joint letter to US Vice President Mike Pence raising their concerns about the fallout which could financially devastate one of the region's biggest employers.

The letter was signed by DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill.

In the correspondence the former Stormont first and deputy first ministers underlined the impact the spat could have on the region if it was not resolved diplomatically.

Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier, which employs almost 5,000 people in Belfast and accounts for 10% of the region's manufacturing exports, is facing significant costs in the fallout with US aeronautics powerhouse Boeing.

The dispute centres over Boeing's allegations that Bombardier received subsidies allowing it to sell its CSeries planes at below-market prices.

The US Department of Commerce is expected to announce a decision on whether to impose duties against Bombardier on September 25.

The UK government has been actively lobbying in the US for a compromise between the two companies amid growing concern about the potential implications for Bombardier's Belfast operations.

Prime Minister Theresa May raised the matter with US President Donald Trump in a phone call last week.

Business secretary Greg Clark also recently travelled to Boeing's base in Chicago to discuss the potential impact of the dispute and Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been involved in negotiations.

But on Tuesday Boeing said it was refusing to back down and was going to "let the process play out".

Mr Brokenshire insisted on Wednesday that the UK Government was "working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier's operations and its highly skilled workforce in Belfast".

During Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons Mr Brokenshire added: "Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement.

"I note that the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Fein have issued a joint letter to the vice-president underlining the particular circumstances and the real significance of this matter to Northern Ireland, and I would encourage everyone to play their part in seeking a resolution."

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke warned that Boeing's "corporate bullying" was putting thousands of good jobs at risk.

"Unite is demanding the Prime Minister and the Government stand up for the workforce in Northern Ireland and our aerospace industry and to stand up for decent jobs," he said.

"She needs to tell President Trump, she will not stand by and watch Boeing threaten thousands of jobs."

Boeing filed a petition with the US International Trade Commission and the US Department of Commerce in April, alleging that massive subsidies have allowed Bombardier to embark "on an aggressive campaign to dump its CSeries aircraft in the United States".

Bombardier has rejected Boeing's claims. Bombardier said the plaintiff was a global powerhouse that had not lost any sales as a result of Bombardier.

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