American aircraft manufacturer Boeing is refusing to back down in a bitter aerospace trade dispute which could financially devastate one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has asked US President Trump to help broker a deal in the spat between Boeing and Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier.

Bombardier, which employs around 4,500 people in Belfast and accounts for 10% of the region’s manufacturing exports, is facing significant costs in the dispute.

The Bombardier main entrance at Derby
Bombardier employs around 4,500 people in Belfast (Rui Vieira/PA)

The fallout centres on Boeing’s allegations that Bombardier received subsidies allowing it to sell its CSeries planes at below-market prices.

The US Department of Commerce is expected to announce a decision on whether to impose duties against Bombardier on September 25.

The UK Government has been actively lobbying in the US for a compromise between the two companies amid growing concern about the potential implications for Bombardier’s Belfast operations.

Mrs May raised the matter with the US president in a phone call last week.

Business Secretary Greg Clark
Business Secretary Greg Clark recently travelled to Boeing’s base in Chicago (Victoria Jones/PA)

Business Secretary Greg Clark also recently travelled to Boeing’s base in Chicago to discuss the potential impact of the dispute and Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been involved in negotiations.

However, despite the diplomatic efforts of the UK Government to get the case dropped and a compromise reached Boeing insisted on Tuesday it is going to “let the process play out”.

The company said it is seeking “to restore a level playing field in the US single-aisle airplane market.”

“Boeing had to take action as subsidised competition has hurt us now and will continue to hurt us for years to come,” the company said in a statement.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been involved in negotiations
Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been involved in negotiations (Liam McBurney/PA)

“This is the normal course of action for addressing instances where a competitor is selling into the US market below cost, and we will let the process play out.

“We believe that global trade only works if everyone plays by the same rules of the road, and that’s a principle that ultimately creates the greatest value for Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and our aerospace industry,” the company added.

A UK Government spokesman said: “This is a commercial matter but the UK Government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.

“Ministers across government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, Bombardier, the US and Canadian governments.

“Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier.”

The fact Downing Street has become involved demonstrates the level of concern over the impact an adverse ruling by the US Department of Commerce against Bombardier could have on the future of the Northern Ireland factory.