London/Montreal: A deal giving Airbus a controlling stake in Bombardier's CSeries jets should lead to extra work for the Canadian planemaker's factory in Northern Ireland, UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said on Friday after meeting with executives from both companies.
"We’ll have more detailed discussions as the deal progresses but there was great optimism that work generally for Belfast would increase,” said Clark in an interview at Bombardier's plant in Montreal.
Airbus' investment this week in the Montreal-based plane and train maker's CSeries jets is expected to reduce costs and increase sales of the narrow-body jets.
It gives Bombardier a possible way out of a trade dispute with Boeing in which the US Commerce Department has threatened to impose 300 per cent import duties, threatening thousands of jobs in Canada, the United States and Northern Ireland.
Clark said he would expect work to increase at the Belfast plant because of the growth in sales.
"Obviously, if demand increases then some decisions will need to be taken as to where the future capacity can be located," Clark said. "And I would expect Belfast to be a good contender for that."
Bombardier makes the CSeries CS100 and CS300 carbon wings at a plant in Belfast.
Under the deal, Airbus would take a 50.01 per cent stake in the CSeries and add an assembly line for the plane in Alabama. Thus it would be a US-made product and avoid anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties.
Bombardier is the largest manufacturing employer in Northern Ireland, which is the poorest of the United Kingdom's four nations and remains mired in political sensitivities after emerging from decades of armed sectarian conflict.
Clark and Northern Irish politicians had welcomed the Airbus deal and promised to work with the companies to protect the workforce in the province.