Quebec premier backs Bombardier in trade dispute
Speaking in Montreal on Monday, Canada’s foreign affairs minister and Quebec’s premier took a similar tone on two trade disputes involving the United States.
June 13, 2017 By Post Media News
Bombardier is currently under investigation by the United States International Trade Commission, after Boeing complained that the Montreal-based aircraft maker took advantage of government subsidies in Canada to price its planes below cost in an effort to gain market share in the U.S.
Boeing, which has also complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce, wants the U.S. government to place a duty on Bombardier’s CSeries plane.
“We absolutely believe that this challenge is without merit, we think that Bombardier and the government are fully compliant with our international trade obligations,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
“We are standing very firmly in support of Bombardier, in support of the Canadian aerospace industry and in support of Canadian workers.”
Ottawa had planned to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighter planes from Boeing, a decision that is now being reconsidered as a result of the dispute.
“We are reviewing our military procurement position with regard to Boeing,” Freeland said.
Dominique Anglade, Quebec’s minister of economy, science and innovation, said the Quebec government, which owns 49.5 per cent of Bombardier’s C Series program, isn’t worried the Boeing complaint will affect sales of the jet.
“I think people know the quality of the airplane, regardless of what Boeing is doing,” Anglade said. “If Boeing had thought there was really a good reason to go down this path, they would have done this a long time ago. I think they waited until the last minute to do it.”
However, Bombardier has not announced any C Series sales in about a year.
“I think we’re still trying to build momentum,” she said, “the focus is really on getting more orders.”
A similar tone was taken when it came to another trade dispute affecting Quebec businesses — the long-running dispute over softwood lumber.
In April, the U.S. Department of Commerce began charging countervailing duties between there and 24 per cent on imports of softwood lumber from Canada, claiming that Canada’s softwood lumber industry receives unfair government subsidies.
Freeland said bilateral negotiations continue, and that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is very involved, but that the two sides remain far apart.
“We continue to work very hard on the softwood lumber issue. I think it does bear repeating for Canadians, we are absolutely confident of the rightness of our position, we believe that the countervails imposed by Congress are punitive and without foundation,” Freeland said. “We are, and will continue to vigorously defend the softwood lumber industry of Quebec and all of Canada.”
In the past, Canada has turned to international tribunals set up under NAFTA and the World Trade Organization in an effort to have U.S. duties overruled.
“On past occasions, we have won at every level. We are confident we will continue to do so,” Freeland said. “At the same time, we remain of the view that a negotiated settlement would be the best outcome for Canadians and Americans.”
Freeland said that a settlement to the dispute would be good for middle-class Americans who want to buy a home or build a deck.
“The fact is the U.S. economy needs our lumber, the U.S. industry, on its own, does not produce enough lumber for the U.S economy,” Freeland said. “We really believe that in law and economic reality, there are good grounds for reasonable parties to reach a negotiated agreement.”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters that reaching a negotiated settlement is important.
“If we have no deal, it will be years, years of litigation,” he said. “We’re going to support our workers and business people to the end, I repeat to the end, if they think they’re going to tire us out and at some point we’re going to throw in the towel, they are mistaken.”
Couillard said that while U.S. president Donald Trump may talk tough on trade, he doesn’t think it will be harder to reach a deal than it was with previous U.S. administrations.
“Protectionism is not a new phenomenon in the U.S. and Mr. Trump certainly gives it, let’s say, a more aggressive flavour, but it does not change the fact that we were ready to defend our workers in the softwood lumber industry before Mr. Trump was elected,” Couillard said.
But, while there had been some optimism that a deal could be reached this summer, Anglade says it may take longer than that.
“Is there any progress? It’s hard to tell. The progress has been made in terms of convincing other people we have a system that is fair, that is representative of a free-trade system,”Anglade says. “Have we done enough progress that we’re going to end up with a conclusion in the next few months? I don’t think so, I think there’s a lot more work ahead of us.”