Boost for Belfast workers as Bombardier wins trade dispute with United States

Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier has won its case against United States proposals to impose massive tariffs on the import of its jets in a ruling which should safeguard thousands of jobs in Belfast.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) said rival manufacturer Boeing did not suffer injury from Atlanta-based Delta Airlines' order of Bombardier's C Series passenger jets.

The ruling means tariffs of 292% duties will not be imposed on the jets' import to America.

The move could safeguard thousands of jobs in Belfast, where the C Series wings are produced, and unions said workers would be "breathing a huge sigh of relief" at the news.

The decision comes after Theresa May raised the issue with US president Donald Trump during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

File photo dated 08/07/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May holding talks with US President Donald Trump
Theresa May raised the Bombardier dispute with US president Donald Trump in talks on Thursday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Prime Minister said: "I welcome this decision, which is good news for British industry. Bombardier and its innovative workforce play a vital role in the Northern Ireland economy."

And Business Secretary Greg Clark added: "The decision by the International Trade Commission confirms what the UK and Canadian Governments working hand in hand has maintained from the outset, that this case is unjustified. We are pleased that the ITC have now recognised this."

DUP MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson said: "This is fantastic news for Bombardier and particularly for the firm's 4,000 workers in Northern Ireland and the many more who form part of the supply chain here.

"This has been a very difficult time for those staff who faced an uncertain future.

"Even in recent days there some pessimism had grown, but Bombardier's greatest strength here in Belfast is the quality of those workers and the product they deliver."

Bombardier, which is headquartered in Canada, said in a statement: "Today's decision is a victory for innovation, competition, and the rule of law. It is also a victory for US airlines and the US travelling public.

"The C Series is the most innovative and efficient new aircraft in a generation.

"Its development and production represent thousands of jobs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom."

It added: "With this matter behind us, we are moving full speed ahead with finalising our partnership with Airbus.

"Integration planning is going well and we look forward to delivering the C Series to the US market so that US airlines and the US flying public can enjoy the many benefits of this remarkable aircraft."

Union leaders reacted with jubilation to the news but urged Bombardier to reiterate its commitment to protecting Northern Irish jobs.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland and throughout the supply chain in UK will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that the International Trade Commission has seen through Boeing's baseless complaint."

He went on: "The C Series is a world beating aircraft made by world class workers. There can be no backsliding from the US government on this decision.

"Unite looks forward to continuing to work with Bombardier to secure future sales and investment to ensure a bright future for Northern Ireland workers and the thousands across the UK in the supply chain."

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite regional officer for the union's membership at Bombardier in Northern Ireland, dismissed efforts by the Prime Minister to resolve the dispute and said it was a victory for workers.

"When the story is told of this dispute it will be one of how, in the absence of a genuine effort by politicians and the UK Government, workers themselves had to take the fight on," she said.

"Bombardier itself now must reiterate its commitment to the Northern Ireland workforce and end the outsourcing of jobs to low-cost centres."

The GMB union said the tariffs would have been a "disaster" for Northern Ireland's economy.

GMB organiser Michael Mulholland said: "Hopefully this can now be an end to the stress and worry for our Bombardier members and they can concentrate on the job they're paid to do.

"This whole Bombardier saga must act as a warning to the UK Government about the kind of battles it faces to defend UK jobs and industries as we leave the EU and face the increasingly hostile territory of trade wars on our own."

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said: "This should be a signal to Theresa May that investing in manufacturing and supporting areas like Northern Ireland should be a priority for her Government."

Workers at #Bombardier will be delighted tonight. They and the company are wholly vindicated by the ITC decision. They will know that their unions - especially Steve Turner and all @unitetheunion worked incredibly hard to win this.

-- Owen Smith (@OwenSmith_MP) January 26, 2018

The aerospace industry also welcomed the news.

ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said: "This judgment from the US International Trade Commission is positive news that will be warmly welcomed by Bombardier, its workforce in Belfast and the whole supply chain of companies in the UK and Ireland."

The ITC's role was to determine whether the aircraft manufacture industry in America was damaged by imports that the US administration believed were being sold too cheaply.

Bombardier has received large sums from government administrations in the UK and Canada as part of the development of the C Series.

It had argued the Commerce Department's tariff threat ignores long-standing business practices in the aerospace industry, including launch pricing and the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programmes.

But Boeing said its business was damaged because Bombardier received illegal government subsidies, dumping the C Series in the US through the cut-price 2016 Delta sale of 75 jets.

However, the ITC said: "100 to 150 seat large civil aircraft from Canada do not injure US industry."

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