British Prime Minister Theresa May called U.S. President Donald Trump last week to ask for his help in a trade dispute that could put thousands of jobs in jeopardy in Northern Ireland, The Times reported Tuesday.
The phone call stems from a dispute between Canadian aerospace and transportation company Bombardier and U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
Bombardier won an order to supply up to 125 passenger jets for U.S. airline Delta in 2016. The CSeries planes are made at the firm’s plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Boeing accuses Bombardier of being unfairly subsidized by the Canadian state. It has also complained about a £113 million loan ($150 million) from the British government.
A U.S. ruling against Bombardier this month over punitive tariffs for the aircrafts would be devastating news for the Belfast plant, where some 4,500 people are employed. The Times reports that Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), pressured May to raise the issue with Trump. May relies on DUP’s backing to maintain a majority in parliament after the Conservative Party failed to maintain all its seats in June’s snap general election.
Officials told The Times that the conversation between Trump and May was productive, but that few signs indicate the pressure is working. May could instead be forced to follow Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has threatened to cancel defense contracts with Boeing.
“Boeing is pursuing unfair and aggressive trade action against the Canadian aerospace sector,” Trudeau said Sept. 5 while alleging that the company receives “billions [of dollars] in support from the U.S. federal, state and municipal governments.”
Officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are currently working to get Boeing to drop the case and negotiate a settlement with Boeing instead.
“Ministers across government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, Bombardier, the US and Canadian governments,” a BEIS spokesman told The Times. “Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier.”
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