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Thousands of UK jobs in balance as US decides on huge Bombardier tariff

Thousands of British jobs could be plunged into uncertainty as early as Thursday when the US government decides whether to apply extortionate tariffs on Bombardier. 

Trade union figures and Whitehall sources expect the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to rule against the Canadian firm, which has a factory in Northern Ireland.  

That would mean tariffs of almost 300 per cent placed on parts of a new aircraft made in Britain within days, threatening lucrative US sales. 

Some 4,000 people are employed in Bombardier’s factory in Belfast and a further 20,000 UK jobs are linked to its supply chain. 

Government ministers have conducted more than 100 phone calls or meetings and submitted some 7,000 pages of legal documents in an attempt to dissuade the US government. 

Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, issued a last minute plea, telling The Telegraph that the case against Bombardier was “completely unjustified”.

A Boeing 737 MAX on display at Paris air show and Bombardier’s CS300 aircraft at their AGM in Montreal

Credit:
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/Christinne Muschi

Whitehall sources insisted the government has undertaken one of the “most coordinated and consistent lobbying campaigns” in recent years to sway the result. 

However trade union figures are furious that ministers did not fly to Washington more for face time with the Trump administration and fear the worst. 

The ITC is set to make its decision as early as Thursday. It is the second stage of a process started when the Commerce Department approved tariffs late last year.

The row started when Boeing, a US company, accused Bombardier, a Canadian company, of getting unfair state help to create its “C Series” aircraft.  Its wings are made in Northern Ireland. 

The case is seen as a major test of Trump’s America First strategy and could open the flood gates to similar protectionist challenges if Boeing is successful, according to trade union officials.  

If the ITC green-lights the tariffs it will be a major diplomatic failure for Mrs May and trigger a scramble to secure the thousands of British jobs at stake. 

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business

Credit:
REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Government sources indicated the result is likely to be appealed to the World Trade Organisation. However union officials said that could take years, during which time the tariff would be in place.

The Prime Minister, Mr Clark, Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, and other government ministers have had more than 100 calls or meetings over the Bombardier dispute. 

Some 28 have been with the US administration and Congress, 24 with Bombardier, 27 with Canadian officials, 15 with Boring and 11 with Airbus. 

The UK government has also submitted more than 7,000 pages of argument and evidence to the Commerce Department and ITC, according to information provided by the Business Department. 

Mr Clark told The Telegraph: “From the outset we have vigorously challenged this completely unjustified case against Bombardier.”

He added: “I’m doing everything I possibly can, as are all my colleagues in Northern Ireland and Canada, to mount a sustained campaign.

“I care deeply about the future of Bombardier and the workers affected. I remain utterly determined to get the right result and there’s still a way to go in this case yet.”

A Whitehall source who has held a post for years claimed: “This has been one of the most coordinated and consistent lobbying campaigns I’ve ever seen from a UK administration.”

However union figures are dismissive of the Government’s attempts to win over the Americans, saying officials saw the case as a technical decision rather than a political one. 

“The problem with the UK government is they thought this was business as usual with the Trump administration,” a union official involved in the campaign for Bombardier said. 

“They thought they could rely on a phone call to the administration. But May’s two calls with Trump failed.”

It is unclear exactly when the result will be announced. Ministers and unions are braced for the decision as early as Thursday, though it could be a little later. 

Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/25/thousands-uk-jobs-balance-us-decides-huge-bombardier-tariff/

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