Theresa May is “bitterly disappointed” the US has opted to impose a tax on the C-Series jet made by Bombardier, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers.
In the British prime minister’s opinion it threatens “vital” jobs, and some analysts claim that the US Department of Commerce’s proposed 220% import tariff sets a dangerous trade precedent, and is not dissimilar to similar state aid afforded America’s car industry, or rival Boeing.
Boeing complained it recently lost out on a major order because of unfair UK and Canadian subsidies. Bombardier said it would fight the “absurd” ruling.
The UK government and trade unions fear the imposition of tariffs could make Bombardier question remaining in Northern Ireland, where it employs 4,100 people in four locations.
About 1,000 jobs are linked to the C-Series, the wings of which are made at a purpose-built, near-600-million-euro factory at Queen’s Island in Belfast. The programme is not just important to Bombardier jobs in Belfast, but also to 15 smaller aerospace firms in NI and dozens more across the UK which make components for the wings.
The major order made last year from US airline Delta was a multi-billion euro deal for up to 125 of the jets.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said one reason for the tariff ruling was Bombardier’s failure to cooperate with the investigation.
Bombardier, which bought Short Brothers in 1989, is one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers.
The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive pledged to invest more than 153 million euros in the establishment of the C-Series manufacturing programme, while the company received more than 850 million euros from Quebec’s provincial government in 2015 when its fortunes appeared to be ailing.