Phased-in Open Skies OK: Larson

The United States is ready to accept a phased-in approach to Open Skies — full liberalization of the international aviation market — if Japan agrees to implement it in the near future, the U.S. chief negotiator for U.S.-Japanese aviation talks said Jan. 9 in Tokyo.Alan Larson, U.S. assistant secretary of state, said that while the U.S. intends to persuade Japan to accept the policy as quickly as possible, the U.S. can make an “intermediate stop” before going to the “final destination” of Open Skies.Vice-ministerial bilateral negotiations resume Jan. 10 in Tokyo. They will be the first since talks broke down last summer after both sides threatened to impose sanctions. Following Japan’s refusal to allow U.S. freight carrier Federal Express Corp. to open new services to five Asian destinations beyond Japan, Washington announced plans to impose sanctions last year. Tokyo also threatened sanctions.Last June, Japan made a set of proposals, including that two airlines from each side be given the same level of aviation rights. Based on the bilateral civil aviation treaty signed in 1952, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Japan Airlines currently enjoy wider rights than other carriers.In September, however, the U.S. entered the new Open Skies proposal. Larson explained that under Open Skies, carriers from either country may fly to any point in the other country and beyond to third countries.Larson said the U.S. cannot accept Japan’s proposal because unlike Japan, which has two big international carriers, the U.S. has several smaller international carriers that wish to operate between the two nations. “Equality of opportunities would mean any of our carriers have opportunities to offer services,” he said.Larson rejected Japan’s argument that the overwhelming U.S. share of the market stems from the bilateral civil aviation agreement. Japan believes the current accord favors U.S. carriers.