May: I will tell Trump how vital NI jobs are

Prime Minister Theresa May (left) arrives in Ottawa, Canada, on Monday
Prime Minister Theresa May (left) arrives in Ottawa, Canada, on Monday

The Prime Minister has pledged to press Donald Trump directly over the threat to jobs in Northern Ireland arising from the ongoing dispute between Bombardier and Boeing.

Theresa May made the declaration on Monday as she visited Canada – where Bombardier is headquartered – where she met with the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following a press conference at Parliament Hill in Ottowa on Monday September 18, 2017.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following a press conference at Parliament Hill in Ottowa on Monday September 18, 2017.

She told a press conference that whilst she had already spoken to the American president about the Bombardier dispute by phone last week, when she meets him face-to-face later this week she will stress how vital the firm is to UK workers in general – singling out Northern Ireland especially.

Standing beside Mr Trudeau, she told reporters in the Canadian capital Ottawa: “I will be impressing on him [president Trump] the significance of Bombardier to the United Kingdom and particularly, obviously, to jobs in Northern Ireland.

“We have discussed today how we can work together and to see a resolution of this issue which, from my point of view, I want to see a resolution that protects those jobs in Northern Ireland.”

In April, fellow aerospace manufacturing giant Boeing (based in the USA) complained to US authorities that Bombardier was “dumping” C-Series jets on the US market – using subsidies from the UK and Canada to unfairly produce its planes at a cut-price rate.

It called for penalties against the firm.

US trade authorities are expected make a ruling over the allegations soon.

The wings for the C Series were designed and are built at Bombardier’s east Belfast facility, where the GMB trade union estimates that about 1,000 people work on the C Series.

Mr Trudeau said the “good quality jobs” provided by Bombardier are important to both Canada and Northern Ireland.

Mr Trudeau told reporters: “Good quality jobs that come directly from the aerospace industry in Canada, in Northern Ireland, are important to both of us... We will continue to stand up for jobs, and stand up for the excellent airplane that is the C Series.”

Mr Trudeau said Canada is looking to replace its fighter jet fleet, with Boeing’s Super Hornet aircraft considered as a potential replacement.

But he added: “We won’t do business with a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.”

Sky News and the Independent both also quoted Mrs May as saying: “I am very clear about the potential impact this could have on jobs in Northern Ireland and I will be doing all I can to ensure we can see a resolution to this dispute because I want to see those jobs protected.”

The Independent additionally reported that she would not be drawn on whether UK “commercial muscle” would be used to influence the dispute (such as by not buying Boeing products).

The joint Trudeau-May press conference came about a week before US authorities are expected to rule on the Boeing-Bombardier case.

In its petition to the US trade authorities in April, Boeing said Bombardier was “muscling its way into the US aviation market by offering its heavily subsidized planes at cut-rate pricing” – something it said harmed Boeing and American workers.

Subsidies stemmed from both Canada and the UK, it said. These let it sell aircraft at “absurdly” low prices, specifically: “$19.6 million [US dollars] for airplanes that cost $33.2 million to produce”.

US airline Delta ordered 75 Bombardier C Series craft last year for delivery in 2018, according to Boeing.

Bombardier has called Boeing’s petition an “unfounded assault” on aircraft-makers.

The GMB union in a statement said the 1,000 staff directly employed on the C Series in Belfast are just the “tip of the iceberg, with up to 14,000 jobs on the line including in the wider supply chain”.

It added: “This escalating dispute risks having a domino effect on the Northern Ireland economy.”

Last week, it emerged that both Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill had written to the US vice-president over the issue.

An excerpt, as quoted by the BBC and Reuters news agency, said: “For a small economy such as ours, the significance of the contribution that Bombardier makes cannot be understated. The threat facing us as a result of the ongoing case is alarming, and goes much wider than it may immediately appear.”

Seperately, Monday’s press conference came as a deal is set to take effect on Thursday between the EU and Canada, eliminating 98% of Canadian import duties.