Aerospace giant Bombardier has been hit with a massive import tariff after losing a trade row with rival Boeing, in a decision that will throw uncertainty hundreds of workers across the UK and Ireland.
The US Department of Commerce last night said it imposed a steep 219.63 percent countervailing duty on Bombardier's new commercial jets after it made a preliminary finding in favour of Boeing.
Boeing had complained the 110-to-130 seat aircraft were dumped below cost on the American market, namely to Delta Airlines, last year while benefiting from unfair subsidies.
"We strongly disagree with the Commerce Department’s preliminary decision," Bombardier said in a statement, calling the rate of the planned US tariff "absurd."
Aircraft giant Boeing welcomed the ruling and said: "This dispute has nothing to do with limiting innovation or competition, which we welcome. Rather, it has everything to do with maintaining a level playing field and ensuring that aerospace companies abide by trade agreements.
Ross Murdoch from the GMB union said: "This is a hammer blow to Belfast and risks sending shock waves through Northern Ireland's economy. Theresa May has been asleep at the wheel when she could and should have been fighting to protect these workers. It's high time she woke up.
Unions earlier yesterday voiced concerns that a ruling against Bombardier could threaten around 1,000 jobs at the company's Belfast plant, which makes wings for the jet.
Aerospace trade body ADS added that many more jobs could be at risk at more than 800 supply chain firms.
Unite union's Tony Burke called on Prime Minister Theresa May to stand up for the aerospace industry, and added: “Of course Boeing is emboldened by Trump's America First policy, and as a result thousands of skilled workers' futures are in doubt.”
He also noted that the UK government is the second largest purchaser or Boeing products, including P8 marine surveillance aircraft and Apache helicopters.
But Howard Wheeldon, an aerospace analyst, said: “Threats by both the Canadian and British Prime Ministers to halt purchase of Boeing military planes, unless the dispute can be sorted out, are hardly conducive to finding a satisfactory way out of the current impasse.”
Boeing said early next month, the Commerce department is expected to confirm the scale of the problem and announce additional duties associated with its finding last night.