The US Government is urging its new "open-skies" partner nations in Asia and the Pacific Rim to adopt similar liberal air-service agreements with one another, to open up regional traffic and allow airlines to exercise effectively new beyond-rights to third countries.

In the past five months, Washington has negotiated open-skies-type agreements with Brunei, Malaysia. New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan and is hoping to add South Korea shortly. Similar intra-Asian agreements, however, are still needed to make new fifth, sixth and seventh freedoms a reality.

"The next step is to encourage these countries to have agreements between themselves," says US Department of Transportation (DoT) deputy assistant secretary Mark Gerchick. "A bilateral right to fly beyond a partner country to a third country is meaningless without the third country's acquiescence," he adds.

Brunei and Singapore, both open-skies proponents, are so far the only two countries in the region to reach such an accommodation. Their agreement allows for designated carriers to operate beyond-services, third-country code- sharing and the establishment of seventh-freedom cargo hubs.

Other countries are showing signs of following, including Malaysia and Taiwan. There is also talk of a possible tripartite deal and of liberalising air services among the eight members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

According to Gerchick, Washington is assisting in this process by making available publicly its open-skies model for reference. Its "template" provisions include open routes and designations, unrestricted capacity and frequencies and open codesharing.

The DoT, in the meantime, is pushing to liberalise further recent agreements with Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as to expand links with China and Vietnam.

Source: Flight International