U.S. and European Union negotiators will meet again Oct. 1 to talk about opening up the transatlantic aviation market, with the U.S. having revealed it is prepared to reach interim deals.
Even those pacts, however, could prove problematic as negotiators get into the nitty-gritty. Some observers and participants predict a final agreement will not arrive until about the end of the decade.
John Byerly, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department`s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, said there are several promising areas for early, interim deals. Those include GDS rules, intermodal (plane-to-rail) rights, coordination on U.S. and E.U. competition policy, pricing within the E.U. and even some aspects of airline ownership and control.
Byerly said the U.S. would “seize” an opportunity for an interim deal. But he also cautioned the U.S. won`t rush into them and will insist they be “balanced.”
Byerly made his comments at a recent Competitive Enterprise Institute forum here, which showed just how difficult the negotiations will be. But the forum also helped kick off the public debate and study that must occur to lay the groundwork for a final deal.
Michael Levine, Yale law school professor and a former Northwest executive, drove the point home when he said the first thing that must be done is for everyone to agree on what certain terms mean.
Talks will get mired in a “cloud” of objections “until we start talking precisely about what we mean by liberalization,” he said. “We must specify what expansion of rights we`re talking about, for where and for whom, and then focus [on each one].”
As generally envisioned, an agreement would open the way for any EU airline to offer service to the U.S. from any European country. But there are many other issues involved, including foreign ownership of airlines within the U.S