16 February 2008

Australia negotiates "open skies" agreement with the United States

The new Australian Minister for Infrastructure, Hon Anthony Albanese, announced on 15 February 2008 that Australia has negotiated an "open skies" agreement with the United States of America. The negotiations, which were held in Washington DC from 12 to 14 February 2008, on the Australian side were led by officials from the recently renamed Department of Infrastructure. The US Department for Transportation released a short statement on 14 February 2008 while the US State Department released a Media Note the same day as the Australians.

A notable feature is the agreement to relax the "Fly America" policy after October 2008. Also included is an exchange of seventh freedom cargo rights. It will be interesting to see to what extent the text of the new agreement differs from the new "model" text the US State Department has had since 10 January 2008.

A major beneficiary of the new agreement is expected to be Virgin Blue subsidiary, V Australia. The Minister is reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as specifically noting that the new Labor Government was not intending to grant fifth freedom access to either Singapore or Canada.

New Zealand first negotiated a bilateral "open skies" agreement with the United States back in 1997.

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