According to ATWOnline, UK Secretary of State for Transport Geoff Hoon urged President Barack Obama's administration to commit to completing a Stage 2 open skies agreement by June 2010 "with the headline objective of liberalizing all foreign ownership in airlines to give European and American carriers a bigger home market and the ability to operate like any other competitive international company."
Speaking to the International Aviation Club in Washington, Hoon said the existing national regulatory regimes allow authorities to impose "tough requirements" on airlines in safety, security, labor rights and other areas and that these safeguards mean there is "simply no prospect of aviation descending into chaos if international investment is opened up."
He also called upon the US Congress to end "the talk of banning the use of foreign maintenance facilities," a reference to language contained in the House of Representatives version of the FAA funding bill that would make it very difficult for US airlines to send work to overseas MRO facilities.
He noted that the EU and US have negotiated an agreement on aviation safety allowing FAA and EASA to recognize each other's work, but that agreement is stalled owing to the House action. Speaking to journalists separately, he said, "I would hope that Congress might think again."
Observing that historically the US led the world in liberalizing air transport, Hoon encouraged the US government to reassert that leadership on these issues and also on the environment, where an agreement is needed between the EU and US "on a clear approach to climate change in aviation, involving new fuel efficiency standards and meaningful global emissions goals."
Despite his urgings on joint environmental action, he offered reassurance to those troubled by recent remarks by the UK's environment czar, Adair Turner, that it may be necessary to limit UK citizens to "just a few vacation trips" abroad per year to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. "Not on my watch!" he declared, adding that "those of us who passionately believe in the right to travel have a duty to deal with CO2 emissions" or the stage will be left to only those with more radical solutions. "I do not want to go back to the days when only the wealthy could travel," he asserted.