British prime minister Theresa May meets Bombardier Belfast workers

Bitter trade dispute in US had threatened jobs at the factory

British prime minister Theresa May speaks to a worker during a visit to the Bombardier factory in Belfast before meeting the main political parties at Stormont, for talks aimed at ending the 13-month political stalemate. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/PA Wire

British prime minister Theresa May has met aircraft workers at Bombardier's Belfast factory in the wake of the company's trade battle victory in the United States.

Bombardier's bitter trade dispute with Boeing had threatened jobs at the Belfast plant after the United States trade authorities sided with the US company and proposed a 292 per cent tariff on the import of its rival's planes into the country.

There was a huge sigh of relief in Belfast when that decision was overturned by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington DC last month.

One thousand of the 4,000 strong workforce at the Belfast factory work on the Canadian manufacturer’s C Series jet production line.


Mrs May toured the plant floor where the wings of the C Series jets are built ahead of her visit to Stormont to meet Northern Ireland’s political leaders.

She chatted with workers on Monday morning as she was shown the assembled wings at close quarters. She also met with senior company executives.

The prime minister directly lobbied US president Donald Trump on a number of occasions during the trade row.

The ITC ruled that Boeing did not suffer injury from an order of C Series jets placed by Atlanta-based Delta Airlines.

Boeing had claimed state aid offered to Bombardier by government administrations in the UK and Canada breached international trade rules and enabled Bombardier to sell its jets in the US below cost price.

The US Commerce Department agreed and suggested the massive import tariff on Bombardier.

The ITC’s role was to determine whether the aircraft manufacture industry in America was damaged by the imports.

Bombardier had argued the proposed 292 per cent tariff threat ignored long-standing business practices in the aerospace industry, including launch pricing and the financing of multi-billion-dollar aircraft programmes.

But Boeing alleged its business was damaged because Bombardier received inappropriate government subsidies, dumping the C Series in the US through the cut-price 2016 Delta sale of 75 jets.

The ITC rejected Boeing’s claim and ruled that the import of C Series jets did not injure US industry. - PA