US decision on Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft delayed until Friday

Delay to cause further stress for Bombardier’s 4,000-strong workforce in the North

Bombardier workers in Belfast. Trade unions in the North fear that US president Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy will have an influence on the ITC vote on Friday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Bombardier workers in Belfast. Trade unions in the North fear that US president Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy will have an influence on the ITC vote on Friday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

A far-reaching decision on whether the United States should impose import duties of almost 300 per cent on Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft is to be delayed, causing further stress for Bombardier’s 4,000-strong workforce in the North.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) was scheduled to vote on Thursday to decide if it should give the go-ahead to the US department of commerce to introduce new import trade tariffs on Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft.

However, the ITC confirmed on Tuesday that it would postpone its vote in Washington DC until Friday because of the US government shutdown earlier this week.

Both the ITC and the commerce department have carried out separate investigations into complaints by Boeing that Bombardier had violated US trade laws by selling its CSeries aircraft in the US below the cost of production – an allegation Bombardier has consistently rejected.

Key role

The CSeries is one of a number of aircraft programmes that Bombardier’s Belfast operations play a key role in. The Belfast plant currently manufacturers the wings for the CSeries family of aircraft, and Bombardier has stressed that it is “critical to the long-term future” of its entire Northern Ireland operations.

Trade unions in the North fear that US president Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy will have an influence on the ITC vote on Friday.

The ITC has the final say on whether to endorse new trade tariffs against Bombardier, but the UK government has already revealed that it does not expect its decision on Friday to be in Bombardier’s favour.

The ITC is an independent, quasijudicial federal agency but it is headed up by by six commissioners who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the US senate.

Its current chairman is Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein, a Democrat who was nominated by President Barack Obama.

Campaign

The Unite trade union has led a vigorous campaign against the proposed trade tariffs on Bombardier, and has repeatedly warned that it not just the 1,000 jobs which currently are directly dependent on the CSeries aircraft programme in Belfast that are at risk.

Davy Thompson, Unite’s regional co-ordinator, said there was no doubt on the factory floors across Bombardier’s five sites  in the North that the CSeries was the “future”.

He said any trade tariffs imposed on Bombardier by the US government threaten not just the future of 4,000 aerospace workers but more than 20,000 jobs that Bombardier sustained in the Northern Ireland economy.