Blow to Bombardier as it loses first stage of trade dispute
ONE of Northern Ireland's largest employers faces paying a punitive tariff on its exports of planes to the US after losing the first stage of an international trade dispute.
Aerospace manufacturer Bombardier employs more than 4,000 at its Belfast factories and is due to begin delivering a blockbuster order for up to 125 new jets to Atlanta-based Delta Airlines next year.
But the Canadian-owned multinational suffered a major blow on Tuesday night after a preliminary finding from the US Department of Commerce imposed an intermediary tariff of 219.63 per cent.
Rival Boeing claimed it received unfair state subsidies from the UK and Canada, allowing the sale of airliners at below cost prices in the US.
US 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."
It is expected to be February before a final ruling on the pricing policy of Bombardier's new C-Series is made by official agencies across the Atlantic, trade unionists have said.
Bombardier supports hundreds of other jobs through its suppliers and has been a major employer in Northern Ireland for almost 30 years.
The operation's immediate future was secured after Bombardier signed a US$5.6 billion deal last year to provide its new aircraft to Delta Airlines.
Unions said this could now potentially be jeopardised.
Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary, said: "The decision taken by the US department of commerce was not unexpected – unfortunately it 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."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable called on Mrs May to follow the example of her Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau and "stand up" to the US.
He said: "Rather than simply expressing 'bitter disappointment', our government should be out there fighting for vital British manufacturing jobs in Belfast.
"May must support Trudeau's administration in standing up to protectionist bullying from Donald Trump and his crude 'America First' philosophy.
"Do we really believe the US will save us from Brexit with a comprehensive trade deal, when this is how they deal with fair and free international competition?"