OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken up the federal government’s battle with Boeing Co. with the governor of Missouri, where the U.S. aerospace giant builds its Super Hornet fighter jets.
In what appears to have been a frank phone call Tuesday with Gov. Eric Greitens, Trudeau made note of the number of Missouri jobs that depend on the jets and the fact Canada is the state’s largest trading partner.
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The prime minister didn’t rule out buying Super Hornets, but blasted Boeing for its dispute with Montreal-based Bombardier, and accused the U.S. company of receiving billions of dollars in government support.
A brief, terse summary of the call was released late Tuesday by the Prime Minister’s Office. Greiten’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The call between Trudeau and Greitens ups the ante in the fight between Canada and Boeing, and comes after a senior Boeing official said the company had no intention of backing down in its fight with Bombardier.
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By highlighting Missouri’s trade relationship with Canada, and the number of local jobs tied to the Super Hornet, the Liberals are clearly hoping Greitens will put pressure on Boeing to rethink its position.
Boeing’s plant in St. Louis, Missouri, which focuses on the defence and space sectors, employs some 15,000 people, of which an estimated 5,000 are involved in building Super Hornets. The main assembly plant for Boeing’s well-known passenger jets is located in Everett, Wash.
The government announced last November it would purchase 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 run starting in 2019.
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The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft able to meet its immediate requirements, which include a mature design that’s compatible with U.S. fighters.
But that was before Boeing complained to the U.S. Commerce Department that Bombardier was selling its CSeries jet liners at an unfair price with assistance from federal government subsidies.
American authorities are currently investigating the complaint and are expected to present their preliminary findings on Sept. 25, which could lead to fines or tariffs against Bombardier.
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The Liberal government has linked the trade dispute to its plan to purchase Super Hornets, cutting off contact with the company and threatening to walk away from the fighter purchase if Boeing doesn’t drop the case.
Boeing has shown no signs of reconsidering, however. One of the company’s top executives, Marc Allen, described the dispute Monday as being about protecting the firm’s broader interests.