Bombardier, Boeing clash at trade hearing
The next potential Canada-U.S. trade dispute unfolded Thursday as aerospace giants clashed at a Washington hearing that marked the formal launch of investigations into Boeing’s allegations that Bombardier received subsidies allowing it to sell its CSeries planes at below-market prices.
“The U.S. market is the most open in the world, but we must take action if our rules are being broken,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement after the hearing began.
U.S. aeronautics powerhouse Boeing argued at the hearing that duties should be imposed on Bombardier aircraft, insisting its smaller Montreal-based rival receives government subsidies that give it an illicit toehold in the international market.
Lobbyists, lawyers and aerospace executives crowded the room for a little battle playing out in the broader context of the day’s larger trade news: the U.S. announcement that NAFTA renegotiations will start in the next 90 days.
Bombardier has made it clear that its true goal is to grab half the international market share for 100to 150-seat aircraft, according to Boeing, which argues its rival has received an unfair head start from Canadian taxpayers.
Boeing vice-president Raymond Conner said the sale of cheap, subsidized planes to Delta Air Lines helped build momentum for Bombardier to enter a new market. If Bombardier reaches its stated goal, he said, it would squeeze Boeing from that market and cost the company US$330 million a year in annual sales.
Boeing has petitioned the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate subsidies of Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft that it says have allowed the company to export planes at well below cost. A preliminary determination on the petition is expected by June 12.
If the ITC determines there is a threat of injury to the U.S. industry, preliminary countervailing duties could be announced in July, followed in October by preliminary anti-dumping duties, unless the deadlines are extended.
Boeing is calling for countervailing duties of 79.41 per cent and antidumping charges of 79.82 per cent.
Lawyers for the U.S. aerospace giant argued Thursday that Bombardier’s own words prove it was rescued financially by multibilliondollar assistance from the Quebec government, which last year invested US$1 billion in exchange for a 49.5 per cent stake in the CSeries. The company also shored up its finances by selling a 30 per cent stake in its railway division to pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt for US$1.5 billion.
The federal government recently provided a $372.5-million loan. That’s on top of about $1 billion received in 2008 from Ottawa, Quebec and Britain to develop CSeries.