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British PM Seeks Help Amidst Boeing-Bombardier Dispute

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British Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been reported to be meeting in Ottawa next week to discuss actions to be taken regarding the dispute between the US firm Boeing Co and its Canadian competitor Bombardier.

In addition, the British prime minister reportedly contacted US President Donald Trump on September 5, and asked him to intervene and to broker a deal in the conflict between the two firms.

This followed a visit from Greg Clark, the business secretary, last month. Clark went to Chicago to meet Boeing’s top official with the intention of convincing the latter to drop the case.

The spat revolves around Boeing’s allegations that Bombardier is selling its C series planes below fair prices, enabled by the alleged huge subsidies given by the Canadian government. According to Boeing, the unfair government support included a £130 million loan from the British government for its new C series planes. Bombardier has remarked that the accusations were “absurd,” and said that the government investments “comply with the laws and regulations in the jurisdictions” where they do business.

However, in June, the United States’ International Trade Commission has ruled that Boeing may have been harmed by the sales of the aforementioned plane series.

Around 4,500 workers are currently employed in the company’s Belfast plant as wing makers. This represents 10 percent of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing exports.

“At present, 1,000, or about 25 percent are employed on C series production here but in four years’ time that number is expected to rise to 60 percent of jobs onsite. Bombardier is the largest private sector employer in Northern Ireland. These jobs are vital to our economy and sustain many times more in the wider supply chain in the UK and Ireland,” said Davy Thompson from the UK’s Democratic Unionist Party.

The British Department for Business (DOB) said that their priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and “seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier.”

Theresa May

“This is a commercial matter but the UK government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast,” the DOB added.

‘Level Playing Field’

Meanwhile, Boeing maintains its hard stance on the conflict, saying that it seeks to restore “a level playing field” in the US airplane market.

“Boeing had to take actions as subsidized competition has hurt us now and will continue to hurt us for years to come, and we could not stand by given this clear case of illegal dumping,” the company said.

Despite the diplomatic efforts that the British and Canadian representatives are exerting, the US aerospace firm insists that “this is the normal course of action for addressing instances where a competitor is selling in the US market below cost,” adding that they will “let the process play out.”

“We believe that global trade only works if everyone plays by the same rules of the road, and that’s a principle that ultimately creates the greatest value for Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and our aerospace industry,” the company stated.

The decision’s announcement from the US Department of Commerce is expected on September 25. If the department rules in favor of Boeing, Bombardier will be hit with punitive tariffs, which in turn could make it difficult for the Canadian firm to find C series customers in the United States.

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