Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has raised concerns with the US Commerce Secretary over the potential impact the Bombardier-Boeing trade dispute could have on Northern Ireland's peace process.

The minister met Wilbur Ross in the US this afternoon and said that he asked him "to consider fully the significance of the case for the security of the economy in Northern Ireland, which is an essential support to the peace process".

In a recent preliminary ruling, the US Department of Commerce imposed a 220% tariff on Bombardier's new C-Series jets following a complaint by Boeing that its Canadian rival had received subsidies from the Canadian and British governments.

The decision is threatening to derail a major contract with Delta Airlines - jeopardising jobs at Bombardier's Belfast plant, which employs more than 4,200 people and builds the wings for the C-Series aircraft.

Bombardier is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing employer and its political leaders have warned Washington that the security of the economy plays a crucial role in efforts to maintain peace.

Earlier today the European Union was urged to step in and help resolve the aerospace trade dispute.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise (ISME) Association asked the EU not to "let the British stew in their own juices", but instead "aggressively oppose" Boeing's claim against Bombardier.

Speaking following his meeting in the US, Mr Coveney said: "I outlined to Secretary Ross our concerns at the preliminary finding announced last week and the implications the case could have for Bombardier's operations in Belfast.

"I explained that if these preliminary findings were to be repeated in a final ruling, the implications for the more than 4,000 people directly employed by Bombardier in the city would be very serious.

"Given that Bombardier is, by some distance, the largest manufacturer and private sector employer in Northern Ireland, the adverse impact on the economy in Northern Ireland would be pronounced."

Mr Coveney continued: "While I appreciate that this is a commercial dispute on which the US authorities must adjudicate, it is nevertheless important that, as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Government's concerns on the potential fall-out are conveyed at the highest level." 

The US International Trade Commission will decide in February whether to uphold or reject the proposed tariff.

ISME said the European Union "must act to ensure that jobs across the European Union, whether they be in Ireland, the United Kingdom or any other European state are protected".

The body added: "ISME recognises that there might be a temptation to let the British stew in their own juices for a while as the Brexit train wreck slowly piles up.

"It would be folly for the EU to give in to that temptation."

ISME CEO Neil McDonnell warned the EU not to wait until the US trade commission rules on the Department of Commerce decision next year before intervening.

"(The EU) should signal right now that it will unconditionally, unequivocally and aggressively oppose protectionist measures by the US with tariffs of like effect," he said.

"This is the right fight to pick, with the right bully, at the right time. We need the US to understand this isn't a problem it can tweet its way out of."

The US played a key role in helping to strike the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and Mr Coveney's intervention will add to pressure from Belfast and London, where British Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government relies on the support of the DUP.

In a keynote address this afternoon, Mr Coveney will speak at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies about Brexit and its potential impact on the island of Ireland.  

He will also be raising concerns on the status of undocumented Irish people.

The Government's Special Envoy for the Undocumented to the US Congress, Waterford TD John Deasy, will join the minister in Washington to participate in the immigration discussions.