Canada's Defence Minister is doubling down on Ottawa's threat to jettison a multibillion-dollar purchase of Boeing warplanes if the Chicago company doesn't abandon a trade complaint against Montreal aircraft maker Bombardier.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan suggested in a speech Wednesday that Boeing – which has benefited from billions of dollars of sales to Canada over the decades – is not behaving like a "trusted partner" of Canada right now.
"For decades, Boeing has been an outstanding partner with the Canadian Armed Forces, the government of Canada and in communities across the country, and I expect that to be the case in the decades to come," he told an audience at a Canadian arms fair in Ottawa Wednesday.
"However, our government is of the view that their action against Bombardier is unfounded. It is not the behaviour we expect of a trusted partner and we call on Boeing to withdraw it."
The federal government has started negotiations this year to buy 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter planes as an interim measure to bolster the capacity of the Royal Canadian Air Force as it seeks a longer-term solution to replace its fleet of aging CF-18 warplanes.
Underlining Canada's unhappiness at Boeing's actions, Mr. Sajjan said this "interim fleet procurement requires a trusted industry partner" and said "our government – and I stress this – our government is disappointed in the action of one of our leading industry partners."
In a written response to Mr. Sajjan's speech, Boeing offered no indication that it was considering backing down on its trade complaint against Bombardier.
Boeing spokesman Scott Day said that as for "the minister's request to withdraw our petition, this is a commercial matter that Boeing is seeking to address through the normal course for resolving such issues."
He added that Boeing is always pleased to be "recognized … as a strong partner in the past and for the future."
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it will investigate accusations from Boeing that sales of Bombardier's new C Series jetliner constitute dumping into the U.S. market at "absurdly low prices," because the plane is subsidized by the Canadian and Quebec governments.
The Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission are probing the allegations. A preliminary determination on Boeing's petition is expected by June 12.
Mr. Sajjan also urged other defence industry companies to speak up on how more protectionist trade actions could restrict commerce between Canada and the United States.
"We call on all of our industry partners to speak with one voice about the interconnectedness of the defence industry supply chains in Canada and the United States. We need your help making the clear case of ensuring goods continue to flow freely across our two countries."
He said that in the Canadian government, "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."
Canada's initial purchase of these Super Hornets could cost $2-billion, but their maintenance, support and upgrades could cost as much as $10-billion over the full period of their use.
That could mean billions of dollars more in parts and support for Boeing beyond the initial capital investment.