Don’t be hasty on Open Skies

On behalf of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, our association writes in response to accusations made over several months by American, Delta and United airlines regarding alleged subsidies to Middle Eastern airlines. These airlines and other aviation stakeholders in the U.S. have a different view, which I urge you to consider fully. More broadly, our members — including nearly 100 large, medium and small U.S. companies — are very concerned that this issue between competing global airlines will prove harmful to the budding and vital bilateral relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates and undermine U.S. interests in free trade and regional stability.

Beyond the absolutely critical bilateral defense and security partnership our two nations have built, the U.S. exported over $22 billion dollars in goods and services to the UAE in 2014, making the UAE the single largest American export destination in the Middle East — including more than India, Turkey and Israel — for the last six years. These considerable export numbers mean real jobs for everyday Americans. This is a fast-growing and dynamic bilateral trade relationship with overwhelming benefit to the U.S. At the same time, U.S. trade and investment with the UAE also supports broader U.S. national security interests in promoting regional stability and economic opportunity in the Middle East.

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Among the considerable amount of goods exported to the UAE every year from U.S. companies, commercial aviation-related products are the largest subset. As detailed in the enclosed U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council Report, in 2013 the U.S.-UAE commercial aviation relationship amounted to over $16 billion in annual benefits to the U.S., supporting more than 100,000 jobs and generating over $1.6 billion in tax revenue. A subsequent 2014 Business Council report on the commercial aviation relationship between the two countries highlights over $130 billion in sales of Boeing aircraft and GE engines at the 2013 Dubai Air Show alone – all by UAE carriers, and supporting almost 500,000 U.S. jobs. These U.S. jobs include tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the supply chain.

We urge Congress, therefore, to proceed with extreme caution in taking actions that may limit free trade or restrict Open Skies agreements — principles and agreements that have served our nation so well. In doing so, Congress should consider the views of other stakeholders in U.S. commercial aviation, from U.S. airports and the communities they serve to travel and hospitality companies to tourist and business travelers, to express delivery providers and cargo airlines. These commercial aviation stakeholders understand that the benefit of Open Skies should not be jeopardized by commercial disputes between competitors. 

The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council urges both Congress and the administration to carefully consider the views of all stakeholders in this debate and to refrain from taking actions that are short-sighted, protectionist and that hurt American consumers, companies, and jobs by limiting competition in global aviation and undermining broader U.S. interests across the Middle East. 

From Danny E. Sebright, president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, Washington, D.C.


Renew the Highway Trust Fund

Legislation to fund the national Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account, which pays for public transportation, continues to be deadlocked in Washington, and it will expire once again on May 31. Most Americans, be they city, suburban or rural residents, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, benefit from good roads, bridges and public transportation. Renewal of these vital funding sources could be the one issue Congress can agree on. 

From Larry Penner, Great Neck, N.Y.