The International Air Transport Association has concluded the Agenda for Freedom Summit where a total of 14 nations plus the European Commission attended a weekend meeting in Istanbul, focusing on ways to further liberalise market access and ownership and control rules governing international civil aviation.
This has been an extra-ordinary year for airlines. From oil prices that peaked at US$147 in July, to today’s global financial crisis, the need for airlines to have the commercial tools that other industries take for granted has never been more critical,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
The goal of the Agenda for Freedom Summit was to find ways to expand the commercial freedoms of airlines, namely access to markets and to global capital. The meeting did not set out to sign any agreements or declarations.
“The conference was a success. The states had a very frank and open discussion on ownership and market access. We had gathered 15 of the most liberal players in aviation policy and three key outcomes emerged. The participants asked IATA to continue to facilitate this discussion with a second meeting in early 2009 to turn the discussion into action. They also asked IATA to facilitate the development of a multi-lateral statement of policy that would be a powerful tool expressing the common thinking and approach of the group of states. Finally, the group agreed to spread best practices in liberalisation by making more openly available to all states the most liberal agreements that are being negotiated,” said Bisignani.
Bisignani emphasised the need for states to act with urgency. “Look at what happened to the banking system. In a week it became a state enterprise in many countries. We have already seen the re-nationalisation of Aerolineas Argentinas. This is not the solution that we want. We are not asking for bailouts or more government involvement in our business. Governments have a critical role in regulating safety, security, monopolies and environmental standards. What we were asking for this weekend was simply the ability to act like any other global business,” said Bisignani.
“The industry is in crisis and the message for change is critical. I believe that our message resonated with governments. We have started a process that I am confident will help to build a more stable financial future the air transport industry,” said Bisignani.
The Agenda for Freedom Summit was a follow-up to the Istanbul Declaration, signed by IATA’s 230 member airlines, which, among other things, called for expanded commercial freedoms. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Jeffrey Shane, former Under-Secretary of Transportation for the United States of America and Partner, Hogan & Hartson.