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Wed, Oct 12, 2005

Aviation Talks To Resume Next Week

US Hints Compromise Possible With EU

The US and European Union will sit down next week for talks on an open skies agreement, set against the backdrop of a bitter rivalry over government subsidies to aircraft-makers Boeing and Airbus. In both cases, the US hints a compromise may be possible.

As Aero-News has extensively reported over the past year, Washington and Brussels have been locked in a bitter trade battle over government financing for Boeing and Airbus, a battle made even more bitter by the recent decision by Airbus to accept EU government financing for the A350 -- an aircraft designed as the direct competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

But the talks scheduled for next Monday ostensibly won't touch on the trade dispute, which threatens to drag out into a decades-long war between the continents. Instead, US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and his EU counterpart, Jacques Barrot, talked on the telephone to arrange next week's conference aimed at reaching an open skies arrangement between the US and Europe.

The open skies agreement is still a contentious issue between the two. Both sides almost reached an agreement last year -- until Europeans demanded more access to American skies for their airlines.

Europeans now want not only more access, but the right to purchase controlling shares in US airlines -- something Washington has balked at for decades.

Why a breakthrough on open skies now? Perhaps because the United Kingdom now holds the rotating EU presidency. Talks between the US and Britain are ongoing along several fronts to increase US airlines' access to London's Heathrow Airport.

FMI: www.ustr.gov, www.eurunion.org

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