First day of civil aviation talks ends nowhere

Japan and the U.S. made no progress Jan. 10 in their first day of civil aviation talks, spending the session strongly rejecting each other’s proposals, according to Transport Ministry officials. The discussions will continue Jan. 11.Saying it is unlikely that either side will agree to the current proposals of the other, Japanese officials reportedly told the U.S. that the two countries should seek a compromise solution to resolve their differences. The bilateral negotiations were the first since talks broke down last summer after the two sides threatened to impose sanctions against each other.During the session, the Japanese negotiators said it would be very difficult for them to accept full liberalization of the international aviation market — dubbed “Open Skies” — which was proposed by the U.S. last year. The Japanese side believes U.S. carriers do not need Open Skies to remain competitive because they are largely supported by revenues from a huge and lucrative domestic market.They also said that some of the takeoff and landing slots that U.S. carriers currently hold at New Tokyo International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, should be redistributed to Japanese airlines. U.S. carriers currently have 800 such slots, while Japanese carriers only hold only about 250. Measures to prevent huge carriers from forming alliances must also be introduced, the Japanese negotiators said. If Japan were to accept Open Skies without changing the current conditions, Japanese carriers would be wiped out by U.S. carriers in the international market, they said. From the other side of the table, the U.S. countered that the Japanese position articulated last June is not acceptable because, among other things, it includes restrictions on U.S. carriers’ beyond rights — the freedom to fly to a third nation from the U.S. after stopping in Japan. The U.S. also opposes Japan’s proposal that two principal carriers from each nation be given preferential aviation rights in the bilateral market. Under the current bilateral civil aviation treaty, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Japan Airlines have wider rights than other carriers in the bilateral markets. The U.S. negotiators are headed by Alan Larson, assistant secretary for economic and business affairs at the State Department. The Japanese side is led by Hiromichi Toya, vice transport minister for international affairs.