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 liberalisation in stage two 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 DC this week. "I have no doubt the USA should not be afraid of opening up its aviation business to competition."
He stressed 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 USA, not tied down by additional US legislation, Hoon says, referring to US Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation language recently introduced in the US House of Representatives.
While Hoon has concerns about protectionism in the USA, 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 if the country implements a similar domestic programme.
He suggests as the USA develops its emissions reduction strategy, it should also work with the UK towards developing an international agreement. If the two nations can agree, it provides the USA and the UK the opportunity to set the agenda internationally, he adds.