The commercial relationship that U.S. planemaker Boeing has with Britain was being undermined by the planemaker’s behaviour in a trade dispute with Canada’s Bombardier, U.K.’s Prime Minister Theresa May has said.
After a complaint by Boeing led to the U.S. Department of Commerce imposing a preliminary 220-percent duty on Bombardier’s CSeries jets last week, May intervened in the trade row between Canada and the United States.
At a plant in the British province of Northern Ireland, where the jets’ carbon wings are made, as many as 4,200 jobs have been put at risk by the U.S. ruling.
“We have a long-term partnership with Boeing in various aspects of government and this is not the sort of behaviour we expect from a long-term partner and it undermines that partnership,” May said in response to a question at a Bank of England event.
It is committed to the United Kingdom, said Boeing, the world’s biggest plane maker.
Since she lost her parliamentary majority in June following a botched election campaign, May’s government has had to depend on the small Northern Irish political party and the importance of to the Irish political party is highlighted by May’s criticism.
Nevertheless, its relationship with one of its most important defence equipment suppliers would be hard for Britain to unpick.
Additionally, as Britain prepares to sever ties with the European Union, May also needs U.S. President Donald Trump’s support. In order to cushion the impact of leaving the EU’s tariff-free single market she has pitched a new trade deal with the United States.
But getting Trump to agree a titan of U.S. industry to back off from defending what it views as its trade rights could be difficult for May because Trump has made “America First” a theme of his administration.
She would try to work with Canada to stress the importance of Bombardier to Northern Ireland, said may, who had raised the issue with Trump.
Until the U.S. company drops its challenge, a planned purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets is being refused to be taken forward by Canada’s Liberal government.
“We can’t do business with companies that treat us in this manner … we are actively looking at other options,” Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters.
It had listened to Britain’s concerns but gave no indication that it might change tack, Boeing has said.
While the firm and its suppliers accounted for more than 18,700 UK jobs, it had tripled its spending in the United Kingdom to 2.1 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in 2016 since 2011, Boeing said.
Boeing has also been criticized by British defence minister Michael Fallon. He said that the U.S. firm was seeking other UK contracts even while he ruled out cancelling existing orders with Boeing for 50 Apache helicopters and nine P-8 spy planes.
According to defence analyst Francis Tusa, following the purchase of C-17 transporters and Apache attack helicopters, Boeing has risen since 2000 from a relatively minor defence supplier to become one of Britain’s top five.
(Adapted from Reuters)