The department of commerce imposed a 220 percent tariff Tuesday on Canada’s Bombardier aircraft. The company has been locked in a war of words with Boeing aerospace over Bombardier selling its CSeries passenger jets in the U.S. market far below their market value — all because, Boeing says, Bombardier enjoys massive government subsidies.
Though the decision came as no surprise to either side in the ongoing trade dispute, the size of the penalty did. Moreover, the battle is not just between Bombardier and aerospace giant Boeing; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become personally involved in the issue.
The Canadian government was poised to purchase 18 Super Hornet fight jets from Boeing as an emergency interim measure in order for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to fulfill its operational roles for NATO and NORAD.
Now that contract might never be signed.
Canadian Foreign Affair Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday night, “The government of Canada cannot treat, as a trusted partner, a company which is attacking our aerospace sector.”
Although it is a private company, successive Canadian governments have treated Bombardier like a national symbol. Bombardier cannot deny that it has been the recipient of massive government loans and grants over the decades. As recently as this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the Montreal-based firm another $1.5 billion. But Trudeau has also repeatedly said that Boeing is also receiving government subsidies.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Trudeau emphasized that the tariff has yet to be finalized. His foreign affairs minister, however, chose to attack the department of commerce’ decision, saying it was only intended to freeze-out Bombardier’s CSeries jets from the U.S.
“This is an unjust, punitive ruling,” said Freeland, after she emerged from an evening NAFTA renegotiation meeting in Ottawa — where she is meeting with the U.S. and Mexican teams, adding that the decision “very much has bearing” on whether Canada will proceed with is decision to buy the Super Hornets from Boeing.