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Canada to buy fleet of old fighter jets from Australia in snub to US

13 December 2017

The Trudeau government is stepping up a trade fight with Boeing Co, scrapping plans to buy 18 Super Hornets. At the same time it intends to buy fighter jets under terms that could work against future bids from the US plane maker.

Canada said yesterday it would rather pursue plans to buy 18 used Australian F-18 fighter jets to supplement its ageing fleet, and initiate the acquisition process for 88 new jets as a long-term replacement. Officials did not specify a purchase price or maintenance cost for the Australian jets. But the purchase would need to be approved by the US government.

According to commentators, this comes as the latest development in a dispute between the US and Canada as Boeing pursues a trade challenge against Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. It also comes as a reverse for the US company. Canada created a new procurement step, to make it difficult for companies that hurt the country's economy to win any contracts, including the lucrative 88-jet order.

''Bidders responsible for harming Canada's economic interests will be at a distinct disadvantage,'' procurement minister Carla Qualtrough said at a press conference. ''The assessment criteria will be used in future procurements.''

Canada's plans for acquisition of fighter jets from Australia come after the US imposed an 80 per cent tariff on imports of Bombardier passenger aircraft.

According to commentators, the standoff marks a new low in relations between Canada's Liberal government and Boeing and imperils the prospects of future defence cooperation with the US aerospace company, which says it supports over 17,500 jobs in Canada.

However, Boeing is not likely to back down on the trade challenge and the issue has become a political problem for the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Andrew Scheer, leader of the official opposition Conservative yesterday, mocked Tudeau for buying old jets.

''If the prime minister is so keen on buying fixer-uppers, will he come over, because I have an old minivan I would love to show him,'' Scheer said amidst laughter in the House of Commons.

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