Isme asks EU to 'aggressively oppose' US threat to plane-maker jobs

The European Union has been urged to step in and help resolve the aerospace trade dispute threatening hundreds of jobs in the Belfast factory of plane-maker Bombardier.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise (ISME) Association has asked the EU not to "let the British stew in their own juices", but instead "aggressively oppose" Boeing's claim against Bombardier.

In a recent preliminary ruling, the US Department of Commerce imposed a 220% tariff on Bombardier's new C-Series jets following a complaint by Boeing that its Canadian rival had received subsidies from the Canadian and British governments.

The decision is threatening to derail a major contract with Delta Airlines - jeopardising jobs at Bombardier's Belfast plant, which employs more than 4,000 people and builds the wings for the C-Series aircraft.

The US International Trade Commission will decide in February whether to uphold or reject the proposed tariff.

ISME said the European Union "must act to ensure that jobs across the European Union, whether they be in Ireland, the United Kingdom or any other European state are protected".

The body added: "ISME recognises that there might be a temptation to let the British stew in their own juices for a while as the Brexit train wreck slowly piles up.

"It would be folly for the EU to give in to that temptation."

ISME CEO Neil McDonnell warned the EU not to wait until the US trade commission rules on the Department of Commerce decision next year before intervening.

"(The EU) should signal right now that it will unconditionally, unequivocally and aggressively oppose protectionist measures by the US with tariffs of like effect," he said.

"This is the right fight to pick, with the right bully, at the right time. We need the US to understand this isn't a problem it can tweet its way out of."

Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he would raise concerns over the potential impact the Bombardier-Boeing trade dispute could have on Northern Ireland's peace process when he met US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington.

In a statement before his two-day trip, Mr Coveney said he would be outlining to Mr Ross "the Irish Government's concern as to the potentially serious implications of a negative ruling for the Bombardier workforce in Belfast and for wider economic stability in Northern Ireland which is an essential support to the peace process".

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