There was much dismay this morning at the news that the US Government is planning to impose a 220% tariff on the import of Bombardier planes.
From workers at the production facility in Northern Ireland right up to the Prime Minister there’s disappointment at the US Department of Commerce ruling which could triple the cost of a C-series aircraft sold into the United States. Although there’s still hope the issue can be resolved, it’s potentially a very damaging day for both the Canadian and UK aviation industries.
The former Shorts factory in Belfast employs about 4,000 people, 25% of whom work on the C-Series wings. Many of the jobs in the aviation sector require specialist skills and knowledge. If the ruling is upheld and the market for the planes diminishes, then the manufacturing plant, its suppliers and the wider aviation industry stand at risk. Although some of the skills would be transferable the potential impact on the local Belfast economy and jobs would be significant.
The UK and Northern Ireland governments have invested in the Bombardier aviation site and specifically the development of the C-Series planes along with the Canadian government which has been supporting the development for some time. There are many options on the table for the UK and Canadian governments to consider – they do after all have deals with Boeing directly for the supply of military aircraft. Though a tit-for-tat trade war isn’t a desirable outcome for anyone.
Next February the US International Trade Commission will review the decision and either uphold the penalty or remove it. If the decision is to uphold then there will be ramifications for the long-term nature of the MRO market and the potential availability of choice for operators looking to expand their fleets. We’re hopeful that despite all the rhetoric being spoken, that we’ll eventually see a positive outcome and continued opportunities for growth and jobs in Belfast’s home of aviation manufacturing.