US ruling has major economic implications

Posted By: September 28, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Thursday, September 28, 2017


THE decision by the US Department of Commerce in the Bombardier trade dispute could have far-reaching economic implications for Northern Ireland, stretching beyond the firm’s 4,100 employees.

The ruling appears to be one of the first real examples of a shift in US government policy from one of partnership to protectionism.

President Trump’s economic pledge of “American jobs for American people” may have sounded like a soundbite last year, but the department’s ruling could signal worrying times ahead for the Northern Ireland economy – and the 20,000 people employed by US companies here.

In the manufacturing sector alone, big names such as Caterpillar, Terex, and Astec are all American-owned and in Mr. Trump’s efforts to make his country great again by measures, including cutting corporation tax, Northern Ireland could become collateral damage.

The Bombardier ruling is the latest threat to jobs in Northern Ireland following Brexit and reinforces the need once again for a fully-functional Stormont Executive – a point echoed by the CBI Northern Ireland director Angela McGowan.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey also argues that the Northern Ireland economy is potentially facing an effective “pincer movement” from the US and Europe.

In relation to the latter, he said Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector will be vulnerable if Brexit involves a move towards adopting existing World Trade Organization tariffs.

As for Bombardier, it is not just the 4,100 who work at the company that stands to lose their livelihoods, but those employed in the 15 smaller aerospace firms who help make components for the wings of the CSeries aircraft.

Trade Union GMB estimates the total at 14,000 – not exactly small fry.

As a UK region Northern Ireland, in a business sense, punches above its weight and with the benefit of an educated and skilled workforce at its disposal, along with clever marketing, it continues to attract multi-national corporations to Belfast and across the north, especially in the thriving tech sector.

That said, however, the loss of 14,000 jobs is a doomsday scenario.

At this stage, staff are in limbo and at worst entering a five-month stay of execution.

It can only be hoped that through the combined might of the Canadian and British governments, a resolution can be found to allow an important driver of regional economic growth to remain at the forefront of the aviation industry.