Ever since the massive subsidies from the UAE and Qatar to their airlines were revealed to the public more than two years ago, our message has been the same: that these subsidies are illegal, they are harming the United States, and they threaten American jobs and a U.S. passenger airline industry that supports a substantial percent of our nation’s economy.
You’ve heard us campaign against unfair distortion of market-based competition stemming from illegal subsidies. You’ve heard us say that we’re happy to compete on a level playing field that doesn’t undermine open markets and free trade. You’ve heard us say that monopolies formed by cross-subsidization of other business sectors hurts fair competition. That’s because these are the facts, and they haven’t changed regardless of the campaigns of muddying, misdirecting and misinforming perpetuated by the companies and countries who want these trade violations to remain as they continue to boost their bottom line at the expense of U.S. workers and companies that play by the rules.
If you’re, say, part of a team that’s pushing for the interests of a prominent cargo carrier like FedEx, however, this language might sound oddly familiar. That’s because FedEx, who is leading the charge to maintain the subsidy violation status quo for the UAE and Qatar, seemed to agree with our stance on unfair competitive practices when it was their business being impacted.
Let us take you on a trip back in time to the hearings held on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. On September 21, 2012, FedEx testified that:
“…We are very happy to compete on a level playing field, but we don’t want subsidies to the postal units to come into express businesses and then compete with us in an unfair advantage…”
What about the January 2012 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative from FedEx outlining their priorities for TPP? That included the following stipulations, (which, again, will sound quite familiar):
- Establishing a level playing field for foreign and domestic express delivery service providers (including state-owned enterprises) in all TPP countries;
- Prohibiting monopoly suppliers of postal services from cross-subsidizing their competitive express delivery service businesses with capital derived from other monopoly sectors of their businesses.
There are other examples, but you get the gist – FedEx’s position on trade agreements was exactly the same as ours when it was beneficial to their commercial interests. The concerns FedEx identified in TPP negotiations are the same types of concerns that we’ve been raising for years with regards to Middle Eastern aviation subsidy trade violations.
The difference? FedEx likes the rules to be broken when it benefits their bottom line.
Let’s be clear: We are not now, nor have we in the past, sought action on the cargo aspect of these agreements. From the beginning, our concern has been and remains these countries’ use of subsidies to distort competition with respect to commercial aviation, an aspect of the industry in which FedEx has no stake. And as the Business Travel Coalition knows, no business traveler flies in the cargo hold. These are the questions we ask ourselves every time Kevin Mitchell sends out another letter: why is the Business Travel Coalition not legitimately representing business interests? Why do they continue to represent violations by foreign governments of our trade agreements? Just like the manner in which the Business Travel Coalition affects the debate itself, the answers to these questions are muddied by the remakes of the same old Washington tactic to misdirect and misinform our public servants.
Emirates and Qatar’s efforts to label us as “anti-Open Skies” is yet one more attempt to mislead people into thinking they actually want what’s best for our nation, our workers, and the aviation industry. But they don’t. They want what’s best for the UAE and Qatar, and they’re willing to allow American workers and businesses to pay the price. In the Open Skies debate, FedEx is merely a shill for the UAE and Qatar.
At Americans for Fair Skies, we’re proud of our consistent track record on Open Skies policy, and strongly encourage others who are impacted by these illegal subsidies to continue their hard work to stand up for American aviation, American workers, and the rules of American trade policy. Stand up to FedEx and their hypocrisy. Stand up for American jobs. Join Americans for Fair Skies- find out more on our website: fairskies.wpengine.com.