Boeing won’t end dispute with Bombardier despite Liberal plan to buy used jets

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OTTAWA — Boeing has weighed in on the Trudeau government’s plan to buy second-hand fighter jets from Australia, saying it respects the decision but has no intention of abandoning its trade dispute with Canadian rival Bombardier.

The U.S. aerospace giant was primed to sell 18 of its Super Hornet fighters to Canada at an estimated cost of $6 billion to temporarily augment Canada’s fleet of aging CF-18s until they can be replaced in the coming years.

But the Liberals are scrapping that plan because of Boeing’s fight with Bombardier and will instead announce next week plans to buy used F-18s from Australia, despite having previously expressed concerns about buying older jets.

Boeing, noticeably silent in recent weeks as talk of the Australian fighters heated up in Ottawa, finally broke its silence Friday in a carefully worded statement.

Citing media reports that the government would choose the used jets, Boeing said it “respects the Canadian government’s decision” and will continue to look for ways to work with Canada.

But Boeing also made clear that it had no intention of dropping its dispute with Montreal-based Bombardier, which it accuses of having broken trade rules when it sold dozens of C-Series passenger planes to a U.S. airline.

“Our commitment to creating a level-playing in aerospace remains,” Boeing said. “We will continue to support all efforts to build an environment of free and fair competition marked by compliance with agreed upon rules.”

The Liberals said in November 2016 that they would buy 18 “interim” Super Hornets to fill a critical shortage of fighter jets until a full competition to replace Canada’s entire CF-18 fleet could be held in the coming years.

The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft able to meet its immediate needs.

But that was before Boeing complained to the U.S. Commerce Department that Bombardier had sold its C-Series jet liners to Delta Airlines at an “absurdly” low price with assistance from federal government subsidies.

Commerce officials have proposed a 300 per cent duty on all C-Series planes imported into the U.S., though the penalties won’t be official until a separate ruling on whether Bombardier hurt Boeing’s business.

Paris-based Airbus has since proposed to buy a majority stake in Bombardier’s C-Series commercial planes, in the hopes that it can skirt any duties by building C-Series planes for U.S. customers at its plant in Alabama.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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