Boeing challenge of Bombardier 'lousy customer relations': ambassador
Published Sunday, May 21, 2017 7:00AM EDT
OTTAWA -- Canada's ambassador to the U.S. says he was only given an hour's notice by Boeing that it was about to challenge Bombardier under American anti-dumping rules, calling it lousy customer relations for a company hoping the government will buy its aircraft.
Last week, the U.S. Commerce department launched an investigation against Bombardier, a major player in Canada's aerospace industry, at the request of its competitor, Boeing. Boeing is asking that Bombardier be levied countervailing duties of 79.41 per cent and anti-dumping duties of 79.82 per cent on American imports of Bombardier's large civilian aircraft.
David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the United States, says he spent years in business and learned that if companies treat their customers well, the customers return the favour.
"I told Boeing pretty directly that I thought it was pretty lousy customer relations to give us one hour's notice before they had the Commerce Department launch this kind of an investigation," MacNaughton said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
Representatives from Boeing happened to be at the embassy meeting with officials when they told him about the complaint, MacNaughton said.
"I found it to be a bit much and frankly, I think some of the U.S. companies that have got onto the trade protectionist rhetoric need to start thinking about the integration of our supply chains, need to help keep open trade and actually realize that Canada is a pretty big customer to some of these companies," he said.
The Canadian government had planned to purchase 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets, but Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement Thursday night to say it's now reviewing its military procurement with respect to the company.
"We strongly disagree with the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision to initiate anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into imports of Canadian large civil aircraft," Freeland said in the statement.
"Boeing's petition is clearly aimed at blocking Bombardier's new aircraft, the CSeries, from entering the U.S. market. Boeing admits it does not compete with exports of the CS100 aircraft, so it is all the more difficult to see these allegations as legitimate, particularly with the dominance of the Boeing 737 family in the U.S. market."
MacNaughton said he wasn't making a threat, but didn't find the late notice "to be a particularly helpful thing in terms of building a strong relationship."
"I do find it rather strange that a company like Boeing, that talked to me some weeks ago about how much they value the relationship with Canada, would be causing this kind of an action to be happening at the same time as they are negotiating with us on a major purchase of their military air craft," he said.
MacNaughton said Canada has back-up plans in case NAFTA negotiations and softwood lumber court processes fail, but wouldn't say what they are.
Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz said the threat to ditch Boeing gives the government a chance to step back from last fall's announcement that it would buy the Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure ahead of a competition to replace Canada's aging F-18 fighter jets.
"It gives the government a chance to remove themselves from a political decision that nobody agrees with," Ritz said.
New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen said he's worried the government is using the military as a pawn.
"I didn't think procurement could get any more screwed up," he said.
"I don't know whether to take them seriously, as if they're actually prepared to go through [with the threat to cancel the Boeing purchase].
Matt DeCourcey, Freeland's parliamentary secretary, says the government is working to address "a capability gap in our military." Ritz and Cullen dispute whether there is such a gap.
"The point that Canadians need to understand here is that we are going to stick up for the aerospace industry, as we will stick up for Canadian interests across sectors," DeCourcey said.