Talk of a trade war between the UK and US stemming from an American ruling to impose huge tariffs on aircraft partially built in Northern Ireland has been down-played by Theresa May.
However, in remarks that could be seen as a veiled rebuke of the US stance, the Prime Minister warned of ‘creeping protectionism’ around the world.
Mrs May side-stepped directly answering a question about the prospects of Britain engaging in a tit-for-tat trade war with the US, saying: “On the wider issue, I think that there is a real challenge for us globally today because I think there are aspects of protectionism creeping in around the world.
“I want the UK to be a global champion of free trade because I think those of us who believe in free trade need to stand up and not just explain its wider benefits, but help to explain its benefits to individuals.”
Speaking at a conference to mark 20 years since the Bank of England was granted operational independence, the PM repeated her criticism of US aerospace giant Boeing after the company complained to US authorities over state subsides paid to Canadian manufacturer Bombardier by the UK and Canada.
Its petition resulted in a ruling by the US Department of Commerce that could potentially have a devastating impact on Bombardier’s 4,200 workforce in Northern Ireland and thousands more in the 800-plus UK and Irish companies involved in its supply chain.
The department has proposed a 220% tariff on the imported sale of Bombardier’s new C-Series jets into the US - an aircraft whose wings are made in Belfast.
Mrs May said Boeing’s stance ‘undermined’ its long term partnership with the Government.