Northern Ireland enters fight to defend Bombardier in dispute with Boeing

MONTREAL — The United Kingdom is allying itself with Canada in the fight to persuade U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing to abandon its complaint against Bombardier regarding the CSeries.

Days after a phone call on the issue between British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump, politicians in Northern Ireland have taken up the cause.

In a letter sent to U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence on Tuesday, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein warned Boeing’s actions could affect social peace in the country.

“For a small economy such as ours, the significance of the contribution that Bombardier makes cannot be understated,” reads the letter signed by Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) is the largest employer in the country with its Belfast factor, where 4,200 people work. That facility manufactures the wings for the CSeries.

The letter explains how the consequences of Boeing’s complaint could threaten the fragile political balance in the country.

“The security of our economy has and continues to be a crucial part of our efforts in delivering peace through prosperity,” the letter continues.

“At a time when we are striving to take the next steps in our work on the peace process, and resolve our current political difficulties, this issue creates a new and potentially critical factor.”

Boeing claims Bombardier’s subsidies allow the company to sell its planes cheaper than competitors.

The U.S. Commerce Department is currently investigating Boeing’s complaint and could impose tariffs or fines on Bombardier if it finds against the Canadian company.

It is expected to release its preliminary findings Sept. 25.

The Trudeau government revealed Tuesday it held secret talks with Boeing in hopes of persuading the U.S. aerospace giant to drop its case.

Boeing spokesman Dan Curran said the company is not against competition.

“No one is saying Bombardier cannot sell its aircraft anywhere in the world,” Curran said by email. “But sales must be according to globally accepted trade rules.

“Any claimed economic threat to Bombardier…can be attributed to that company’s decision to flout U.S. trade rules. Boeing could not stand by given this clear case of illegal dumping, which could hurt American workers.”

May is scheduled to arrive in Canada for an official visit next week during which the trade dispute will likely be on the agenda.

Aside from the London-Ottawa partnership against Boeing, two U.S. carriers — Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines — have recently written to the United States International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department defending Bombardier.

Hundreds of Bombardier employees protested in downtown Montreal on Wednesday to denounce Boeing.

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