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Monday, October 16, 2000

U.S., Japan set to
resume ‘open skies’
talks next month

By Tim Kelly
Bloomberg News

TOKYO -- The United States and Japan are scheduled to begin talks on Nov. 15 in Tokyo about a possible bilateral agreement that would give carriers from the two countries greater access to routes and airports in each other's markets.

The U.S. delegation will include officials from the Transportation, Commerce and the State departments, and will be headed by Tom White, the transportation department's special negotiator, said a U.S. embassy official in Tokyo. The talks will end Nov. 17.

After holding 13 rounds of talks in 1998, U.S. and Japanese negotiators reached a limited agreement that gave three carriers each from Japan and the United States unlimited access to airports and routes in the two countries.

Those were Japan Airlines Co., Asia's largest airline, All Nippon Airways Co., Japan's largest domestic carrier, and Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., a carrier in which ANA and shipping company Nippon Yusen KK own about a fifth each. On the U.S. side, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines unit, the world's largest carrier, Northwest Airlines Corp., and FedEx Corp. gained unlimited access to Japan.

Japan remains opposed to a full "open-skies" pact for international passengers, believing that such an agreement would give an unfair advantage to the more numerous U.S. carriers. Japanese airlines would also still be barred from flying on domestic routes in the United States, which represents 37 percent of the global aviation market, a Japanese Transport Ministry official said in June.

The United States will also seek additional slots for American carriers at Tokyo's only international airport at Narita when it adds a second, shorter runway, according to Japan's Ministry of Transportation. Narita handled a record 25 million passengers and 1.8 million tons of cargo in the year ending March 31. The number of slots will probably grow by around half after the addition of the runway from the 370 slots operated at the airport, according to the ministry.

Still the short length of the runway, to be completed in time for the 2002 FIFA world soccer cup to be staged jointly by Japan and South Korea, will limit its use to smaller and midsized aircraft.

The ministry has already signaled its plans to offer more of the new slots to domestic airlines and other non-U.S. carriers to meet strong demand, reducing the overall share of slots for U.S. airlines at Narita. Japanese carriers say U.S. airlines now hold a disproportionate share of international flights at Narita, with 34 percent compared with 3 percent in Singapore, 5 percent in Hong Kong, 5 percent in Beijing and 2 percent in Bangkok, according to figures released by JAL.

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