OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan used a major speech Wednesday to the defence industry to blast American firm Boeing for picking a trade spat with Bombardier.
Sajjan said Canada is disappointed by the "unfounded" action by one of its major partners in the defence industry and he delivered that message to hundreds at a breakfast speech at a major trade show for military contractors.
Boeing has petitioned the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate subsidies for Bombardier's CSeries aircraft that it says have allowed the Canadian company to export planes at well below cost.
Sajjan said Boeing is not behaving like a "trusted partner" and the government wants the company to withdraw the complaint.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks at the Canadian Association of Defence and Security conference in Ottawa on May 31, 2017. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
He repeated the Canadian government's thinly veiled retaliation threat to scrap the planned purchase of 18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the Boeing.
"A productive relationship between industry and government is crucial," the minister said.
"That is why our government — and I stress this — our government is disappointed in the action of one of our leading industry partners.
"We strongly disagree with the decision of the United States Commerce Department to initiate a trade remedy case in response to Boeing's petition against Bombardier."
Scott Day, a spokesman for Boeing, defended the company's trade action, suggesting it should not be linked to its military relationship with Canada.
"It's more of a commercial issue with regard to the Bombardier case," he said. "We're going to continue working with the U.S. navy, providing information on the Super Hornet that will be provided to the government of Canada."
"Our government — and I stress this — our government is disappointed in the action of one of our leading industry partners."
Day said Boeing operations in Canada account for 14 per cent of the country's aerospace industry. That includes 560 companies that provide parts to Boeing commercial airplanes and 2,000 company workers in the country.
"We value Canada as a supplier-partner."
Sajjan also said the defence policy review that he will unveil next week will be linked to the government's broader innovation agenda.
He said the military wants to help foster a partnership with the defence industry that allows for the development of cutting-edge equipment for Canadian soldiers.
Partners should speak with one voice
Sajjan also made a pitch for the defence industry to help Canada with its broader agenda with the U.S. — keeping borders open to trade in the face of possible protectionist action by the Donald Trump administration.
"We call on all of our industry partners to speak with one voice about the interconnectedness of the defence industry supply chain between Canada and the United States," Sajjan said.
"We need your help in making the clear case of ensuring goods continue to flow freely across our two countries. We need your voices to articulate the consequences should our borders be closed. The government will continue to deliver this same message."
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