World business body pushes for air transport to be opened up

  • 31 October 2000

Calling on the European Commission to push for greater liberalization of air transport, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has said European airlines' proposal for a Transatlantic Common Aviation Area offered a practical way forward.

ICC also described as promising the multilateral agreement under negotiation by five member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

At a meeting on air transport policy with European Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, ICC Secretary General Maria Livanos Cattaui said ICC’s members wanted true liberalization in air transport that went beyond the “open skies” agreements advocated by the United States. Some 50 such agreements will have been signed by the end of the year.

She noted that the Trans-Atlantic Common Aviation Area proposed by the Association of European Airlines was the first serious liberalization initiative to come from industry. “Europeans appear to be leading the charge for the first time,” she said.

But Mrs Cattaui said there were many paths towards multilateral liberalization of air transport. The challenge facing policy makers was to choose the most promising. Several solutions might well be pursued in parallel.

These included liberalization within the existing bilateral framework, a lead sector approach covering specific markets such as cargo services, or branching out from a core of like-minded states that would establish fully liberalized air transport markets among them themselves.

The ICC Secretary General characterized the US Open Skies policy as a good example of a unilateral effort to encourage bilateral liberalization, with some 50 agreements signed up to the end of 2000.

However, the ICC Secretary General added:”Bilateral air service agreements can no longer by themselves meet the rapidly changing needs of users, airlines and the global economy. ICC believes it is time to move past the bilateral system towards a more comprehensive liberalization of air transport markets.”

ICC’s Air Transport Commission brings together airlines, users, freight forwarders, insurers, pilots and airports, and thus speaks for the entire air transport community worldwide. Its chairman, Jeffrey N. Shane, is a partner in the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson. He served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation from 1989 until 1993.