Prime Minister Theresa May has asked President Donald Trump to intervene in a dispute between Boeing and Canadian rival Bombardier to help secure thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland.
British ministers have also approached Boeing directly in an attempt to get the world’s largest aerospace company to drop its challenge against Bombardier, which could endanger a factory that employs 4,500 people in the British province.
Bombardier is Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturing employer and May’s Conservatives are dependent on the support of the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) party for their majority in parliament.
May raised the issue with Trump in a call this month.
She also plans to discuss the issue with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when they meet next week, a source close to the matter said.
A US trade court is due to give a preliminary ruling on Boeing’s complaint on September 25.
“Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier,” a government spokesman said in a statement.
“This is a commercial matter, but the government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.”
A spokesman for May said Bombardier’s jobs were “of huge importance” to Northern Ireland.
May is likely to find it difficult to convince Trump, who has made ‘America First’ a theme of his administration, to get one of the titans of US industry to back off from defending what it views as its trade rights.
But the DUP is certain to maintain its pressure on her. “The engagement at governmental level with Boeing and with the US has been significant over the course of the summer because this is pivotal to the Northern Ireland economy,” DUP lawmaker Gavin Robinson told the Irish national broadcaster RTE.
“We’re not there yet, and the work still has to continue.”
Boeing this year asked the US commerce department to investigate alleged subsidies and unfair pricing at Bombardier, accusing it of having sold 75 of its C Series medium-range airliners to Delta Air Lines at well below cost price.
Bombardier makes the aircraft’s state-of-the-art carbon wings at plant in Belfast.
“Boeing had to take action as subsidised competition has hurt us now and will continue to hurt us for years to come, and we could not stand by given this clear case of illegal dumping,” Boeing said in a statement.
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