‘Backchan­nel’ be­tween UK and Boe­ing over trade row

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY JOHN MUL­GREW

THERE is now a backchan­nel be­tween the UK Gov­ern­ment and plane-maker Boe­ing in a bid to solve a transat­lantic trade row putting thou­sands of North­ern Ire­land jobs at risk, it is un­der­stood.

Bom­bardier has been slapped with a 300% duty from the US gov­ern­ment, af­ter com­plaints from ri­val Boe­ing that it was be­ing sub­sidised and is sell­ing off its C Se­ries planes at a cut price, or be­low cost.

And as a re­sult of that, Boe­ing claims it was dam­aged as a re­sult of Bom­bardier se­cur­ing a multi-bil­lion pound or­der for up to 125 CS100 jets to US car­rier Delta.

But ac­cord­ing to one an­a­lyst, the In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion (ITC) — the US body which will give the fi­nal rul­ing in Fe­bru­ary — “may have rea­son to doubt whether Boe­ing makes com­pet­ing prod­uct or has suf­fered in­jury”.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Si­mon Lester, a trade pol­icy an­a­lyst at Cato In­sti­tute, who was speak­ing to The Times.

It’s un­der­stood that a backchan­nel is now in place be­tween the UK Gov­ern­ment and Boe­ing di­rectly, in a bid to ne­go­ti­ate some form of set­tle­ment or agree­ment be­tween the two aerospace gi­ants.

Mean­while, Labour Shadow North­ern Ire­land Sec­re­tary Owen Smith said there “has been very lit­tle” done by Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment to tackle the is­sue.

Writ­ing in The Times he said: “Bom­bardier work­ers ... can­not be col­lat­eral dam­age in a trade war. So in the months be­tween this ini­tial rul­ing by the com­merce depart­ment and the fi­nal ar­bi­tra­tion in Fe­bru­ary by the In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion ... we need our gov­ern­ment to stand up to the bul­lies and put Belfast, and UK man­u­fac­tur­ing, first.”

Bom­bardier’s sales to the US were first handed down an ini­tial 220% tar­iff by the US Depart­ment of Com­merce. Then, last week a fur­ther pre­lim­i­nary rul­ing added an­other 80% tax to sales.

But Mar­tin Craigs, chair­man of Aerospace Fo­rum Asia and a for­mer Shorts/bom­bardier worker, said “even if there was a 30% tax” it could kill the deal with Delta.

“The ITC is still a US gov­ern­ment agency. Even if there was a 30% tax, that would also kill the deal,” he said.

“Sadly, it is hard to imag­ine the ITC, as a fed­eral agency, un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, with the ‘Amer­ica first’ phi­los­o­phy, will di­rectly re­verse this (de­ci­sion).”

Mean­while, DUP MP Gavin Robin­son has said it is time for the UK Gov­ern­ment to “up the ante” over the on­go­ing trade dis­pute.

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