Controversy in Hong Kong U.S. Open Skies Talks

Particular note was paid in Asia to remarks made by U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta. He urged Hong Kong to allow an unlimited number of U.S. airlines to operate in the territory and to establish hubs there, as well. The Secretary also cautioned Hong Kong that it would lose status as a global aviation hub if it didn’t sign an open skies agreement with the U.S.

In reaction, as Singapore’s Business Times reported, Hong Kong flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, noted. “Under the policy, U.S. airlines would enjoy unfettered access to regional markets that feed Hong Kong, but Hong Kong airlines would remain banned from likewise competing on American turf.”

Others said the U.S. was demanding more than it was willing to give. It was reported that Asian airlines would demand rights to enter U.S. domestic markets (cabotage) in return for concessions on open skies. Secretary Mineta said that, “Cabotage is the third-rail in U.S. politics. You just cannot touch it.”

Chiming in on the discussion was Michael Ducker, FedEx Express executive vice president, International. “Hong Kong should have an entirely open aviation regime,” he says, “rather than granting incremental rights over time. An open skies agreement would ensure that air transportation services facilitate, rather than restrict, bilateral economic growth.”>

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