The European Union has been urged to step in and help resolve the aerospace trade dispute threatening potentially thousands of jobs in the Belfast factory of planemaker Bombardier.
As the company awaits the second ruling due on Thursday from the US Dept of Commerce prompted by a petition from US giant Boeing, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise (ISME) Association called on the EU not to “let the British stew in their own juices”, but instead “aggressively oppose” Boeing’s claim against Bombardier.
In the first preliminary ruling last week, the US Department of Commerce imposed a swingeing 220% tariff on the sale of the new CSeries jets to US airline Delta Bombardier’s new C-Series jets following a complaint by Boeing that its Canadian rival had received subsidies from the Canadian and British governments.
The second petition deals with the claim that Bombardier used the subsidies to ‘dump’ the aircraft on the US market at non-competitive prices.
Bombardier is fighting the process claiming - with support from US ailrines - that it has no competitors in the CSeries’ sector.
Nevertheless, the decision threatens not only the deal with Delta but, if carried through in a final judgement due next February from the US International Trade Commission, would effectively block the sale of the CSeries in the US, one of Bombardier largest markets.
Such an outcome, it is feared, could jeopardise the future of the firm and the 4,200 jobs in Belfast, around 1,000 of which revolve around production of the CSeries high-tech composite wings.
ISME said the European Union “must act to ensure that jobs across the European Union, whether they be in Ireland, the United Kingdom or any other European state are protected”.
The body added: “ISME recognises that there might be a temptation to let the British stew in their own juices for a while as the Brexit train wreck slowly piles up.
“It would be folly for the EU to give in to that temptation.”
ISME CEO Neil McDonnell warned the EU not to wait until the US trade commission rules before intervening.
“(The EU) should signal right now that it will unconditionally, unequivocally and aggressively oppose protectionist measures by the US with tariffs of like effect,” he said.
“This is the right fight to pick, with the right bully, at the right time. We need the US to understand this isn’t a problem it can tweet its way out of.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he would raise concerns over the potential impact the Bombardier-Boeing trade dispute could have on Northern Ireland’s peace process when he met US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington.
Speaking beforehand, Mr Coveney said he would be outlining to Mr Ross “the Irish Government’s concern as to the potentially serious implications of a negative ruling for the Bombardier workforce in Belfast and for wider economic stability in Northern Ireland which is an essential support to the peace process”.