British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Monday as Canadian officials try to resolve a potentially damaging trade dispute over passenger jets with U.S. aerospace manufacturer Boeing.
Boeing asked the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate whether Bombardier is dumping planes into the American market, alleging government subsidies to the company allowed it to close a deal for 75 C-series passenger jets with Delta Airlines at a cut-rate price.
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told reporters covering the Liberal cabinet retreat in St. John’s that he’s asked Boeing executives to resume talks to head off the dispute.
MacNaughton said he’s also reached out to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department is investigating Boeing’s complaint.
“All we’ve said to Secretary Ross is that we would like to continue discussions, because we don’t understand why they would be taking action on a case where [Boeing] wasn’t even competing for the business. It’s kind of strange.”
May raised the issue last month in a call with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Key employer in Northern Ireland
May’s visit, while not directly linked to the Boeing-Bombardier dispute, comes at an opportune time as Canada tries to get Boeing back to the table.
Bombardier is the largest manufacturing employer in Northern Ireland, where May’s Conservative government holds key seats.
“These jobs are of huge importance to Northern Ireland and the economy in Northern Ireland and the prime minister wished to make that point to the president,” her spokesman told reporters Tuesday, adding there had been a lot of government engagement with Boeing.
“It is in everyone’s interests that we safeguard Bombardier’s operations and the highly skilled workers that it has in Belfast.”
A decision from the Commerce Department is expected Sept. 25.
Canada’s international trade minister, François-Philippe Champagne, said May understands what’s at stake in the dispute for Bombardier operations in Canada and the UK.
“It provides a lot of employment in Northern Ireland and so she has taken a similar position to us, sending a very strong signal to Boeing that they should be listening to Canada,” he said.
Canada has threatened to retaliate by cancelling a lucrative order with Boeing for 18 Super Hornet fighter jets. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the issue in a call with Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, whose state is home to many jobs manufacturing the jets.
For its part, Boeing has given no indication that it’s listening to the concerns, or that it’s even willing to continue talks with Canadian trade officials.