U.S.-China Open-Skies Deal Remains Elusive Despite Talks
The latest round of aviation talks between Chinese and U.S. government officials did not yield the open-skies breakthrough the U.S. was hoping for, although there is still hope that a new agreement can be reached before this month's Strategic Economic Dialogue in Washington.
U.S. Transportation and State department negotiators were in Chengdu, China, late last week in the third round of aviation liberalization talks to be held this year. Hopes were high that the Chinese would agree to a timetable for removing limits on U.S. commercial flights following productive discussions between Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Chinese Aviation Minister Yang Yuanyuan last month; however, the latest Chinese proposals fell far short of U.S. expectations.
Major U.S. airlines are eager to increase their access to Chinese airports, but the current bilateral aviation agreement places strict limits on flights, with gradual increases through 2010. The U.S. goal is a transition to full open skies, but the Chinese government and airlines are reluctant to allow more U.S. flights due to the difficulties Chinese carriers face in competing on U.S.-China routes.
But in the recent Chengdu round, Chinese negotiators would agree only to a slight increase in annual flight awards for U.S. carriers through 2011. Sources say they were open to setting a date for talks aimed at full open skies to begin, but are not willing to set a deadline for an actual agreement to be reached.
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