UK discourages retaliation in next round of open skies talks

Washington DC
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UK transport minister Geoff Hoon is shying away from threats of dissolving the current EU-US open skies agreement as he reinforced European calls for further liberalization in stage two open skies talks.

If no second-stage agreement is reached next year, either party has the right to withdraw traffic rights secured under phase one-an option highlighted by previous UK transport officials but not by Hoon.

"Let's stay clear of retaliation," he told members of the International Aviation Club of Washington today. "I have no doubt the US should not be afraid of opening up its aviation business to competition."

He stresses that protectionism offers a false sense of security in the economic downturn. For example, foreign maintenance facilities should be usable under the mutual recognition agreement between the European Union and the United States, not tied down by additional US legislation, Hoon says, referring to FAA Reauthorization language recently introduced in the US House of Representatives.

While Hoon has concerns about protectionism in the US, he is pleased by US politicians' discussions of cap and trade programmes and reiterated that Europe will not subject inbound US flights to its emissions trading scheme (ETS) if the country implements a similar domestic programme.

He suggests as the US develops its emissions reduction strategy, it should also work with the UK toward developing an international agreement.

If the two nations can agree, it provides the US and the UK the opportunity to set the agenda internationally, Hoon says.

Meanwhile, he acknowledges that Europe's ETS remains controversial in the US. But Hoon says the debate should move beyond whether it is legally permitted by the Chicago Convention. US stakeholders such as the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) have long argued Europe's ETS violates the convention and should be subject to a legal challenge.