Business Secretary Greg Clark has criticised Boeing for its “totally unjustified” action against Bombardier, in a trade dispute that threatens thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland.
Canadian firm Bombardier, which employs 4,000 people in Belfast, is facing a 220% tariff on a new model of passenger jet and a second preliminary levy of 80% on the exports of its planes to the US.
The dispute between the two rivals centres around claims from US firm Boeing that Bombardier received unfair state subsidies from the UK and Canada, allowing it to sell airliners at below-cost prices in the US.
Speaking to MPs, Mr Clark described the tariff decisions as “bitterly disappointing” but stressed they were “only the first step in the process”, with a final ruling due in February.
“We will look to the US to ensure the process is rigorous and not politically influenced,” he said.
Image: Business Secretary Greg Clark says the action by Boeing was ‘totally unjustified’
He added: “We consider this action by Boeing to be totally unjustified, to be unwarranted and incompatible with the conduct that we would expect of a company with a long-term business relationship with the United Kingdom.”
The wings for the C-Series jet are made in Northern Ireland and Bombardier has said the model affected by the row is “critical” to its operations there.
Mr Clark said Boeing does not even make a competing aircraft in the 100-125 seat sector, which is where the C-Series model sits.
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Image: A man works on a C Series aeroplane wing in the Bombardier factory in Belfast
Bombardier has been accused by Boeing of receiving unfair state support – including a £113m loan from the British Government – for the C Series.
Mr Clark says the Government “strongly and robustly refutes this allegation”, adding: “We can demonstrate any aid that has been given… is consistent with the type of assistance Boeing has had over time.”
He said the Prime Minister had discussed the matter twice with US President Donald Trump, asking the US government to “do all it can to encourage Boeing to drop its complaint”.
“This Government has been working tirelessly to bring the case to a satisfactory resolution and we will continue to do so,” he said.
Boeing has previously said the row “had nothing to do with limiting innovation or competition” but was about “maintaining a level playing field and ensuring that aerospace companies abide by trade agreements”.