ombardier’s CEO Alain Bellemare speaks to the media at the company’s center of excellence last month in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Bombardier’s Bellemare says Alabama assembly line is needed with or without duties

MIRABEL, Que. — Bombardier Inc. needs an Alabama assembly line regardless of whether the United States proceeds with massive duties on imports of the company’s C Series commercial jets, CEO Alain Bellemare said Thursday.

Bellemare said he was disappointed but not surprised by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision Wednesday to impose duties of 292.21 per cent.

“There’s disappointment because in my opinion nothing justifies this decision but the most important decision will be the USITC’s,” he told The Canadian Press.

A final decision rests with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which is expected to decide in February whether Boeing was harmed by the C Series.

Boeing launched the trade case in April, arguing that governments in Canada and Britain subsidized the plane’s development which allowed Bombardier to sell it at unfairly low prices.

Airbus, Boeing’s European rival, reached a deal with Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) in October to purchase a 50.01 per cent stake in the C Series commercial jet and plans to build an assembly line in Alabama for American customers while maintaining the primary line in Mirabel, Que.

Bellemare said the Alabama facility is crucial to a deal Bombardier has to provide Delta Air Lines with 75 CS100 planes.

“What was clear for us is that adding an American assembly line to make the product (the C Series) American was a solution that allowed us to secure the Delta order,” Bellemare said in the end-of-the-year interview.

Bombardier says the new Alabama assembly line will bring about $300 million in new foreign direct investment and add 400 to 500 direct jobs on top of the almost 23,000 supported by the C Series through its supply base.

Delta was originally expected to receive the first of its firm order for 75 CS100 planes next spring, but now plans to wait until the aircraft destined for U.S. customers is built in the U.S. south.

Some observers believe Boeing’s complaints are unfounded because the CS100 is not a direct rival of anything Boeing makes.

Bellemare said he believes Bombardier has a “real chance” of winning the dispute but that he still “anticipates the worst.”

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