Coveney stresses importance of Bombardier to North on US trip
Aviation company significant to economy and peace process, Minister tells Washington
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: had a 30-minute meeting with US trade secretary Wilbur Ross. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney emphasised the importance of the Bombardier aviation company to the peace process in Northern Ireland during his meeting with US trade secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington yesterday.
During his half-hour one-on-one meeting with Mr Ross, a key figure in the Trump administration, Mr Coveney offered his supported to the case being made by the British government against a decision by the US department of commerce that certain aircraft manufactured by the Canadian aviation company should be subject to a 219 per cent trade levy.
The decision would more than double the cost of Bombardier’s C-Series aircraft sold in the United States. The ruling came on foot of a complaint by Boeing that Bombardier had received unfair state support from the Canadian government.
When outlining what he told Mr Ross about the Bombardier case, Mr Coveney said he had “made it very clear that I wanted to impress on the US administration how significant Bombardier was as a company for Belfast and for Northern Ireland and, indirectly, for the peace process.
He said the company was by far the North’s biggest private employer, with 4,000 worker, 1,200 of whom linked to the C-Series aircraft: its wings are manufactured in the North.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said there were other considerations here. “Northern Ireland is a part of the world that the US administration has been interested in for decades.
“I asked Secretary Ross to consider fully the significance of the case for the security of the economy in Northern Ireland, which is an essential support for the peace process.
He described the exchange, as an “honest conversation” with a politician who understands Ireland’s economy extremely well. Mr Ross was a substantial investor in Bank of Ireland in the wake of the banking crash here.
The meeting took place ahead of a keynote speech Mr Coveney delivered on Brexit at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
“Secretary Ross and I spent a lot of time talking about Brexit. He is visiting the UK in November. He is very interested in the politics and commerce of Brexit and I was keen he get an Irish perspective.”
Mr Coveney said the central message of his speech would be Ireland’s consistency of approach on Brexit.
“Our objective in Brexit negotiations is to keep as seamless a relationship as possible between Britain and the EU, and between Britain and Ireland.
“Britain will undoubtedly leave. We will continue to make the case that Britain should be part of same custom union partnership and we would like Britain to be an extension of the single market
“How do you get to that point? How do we negotiate? How do we protect Irish interests during negotiations in two phases?”
He said the Government had very clear priorities: protecting the peace process; an invisible Border; and a common travel area.
“Theresa May’s Florence speech has changed the language we are hearing from the British government,” he said.
During the meeting, Mr Coveney also pointed out that there was substantial trade between Ireland and the US and that Irish companies investing in the US made the State the seventh-largest source of foreign direct investment in the US.
During the course of his visit Mr Coveney will also meet the director of the office of management and budget, Mick Mulvaney, who has strong Irish connections. He also will meet US foreign secretary Rex Tillerson today.
“These are three key people in the Trump administration,” he said.
“There are nearly 100,00 jobs linked to Irish companies in the US now. We can and will be a strategic partner for the US in the EU in future, as we will be its only English-speaking country.”
Later today, Mr Coveney will also meet speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan as well as the Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who is the House minority leader.