Enforcing Trade Agreements to Keep America Safe

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By Robert Mitchell

The United States military is the most powerful fighting force the world has ever seen. During my decades of service as a Navy SEAL and later as a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer, the strength, intelligence, and determination of our service members was always on display. Whether on the front lines or stationed at a base overseas, our men and women in uniform routinely made tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend both our homeland and our allies.

Even institutions as vast and powerful as the U.S. armed forces do not operate in a vacuum. Our military often relies on the resources of private industry for vital support in contingency operations, and the U.S. civil aviation industry is a crucial partner in that respect.  American air carriers voluntarily make available hundreds of additional aircraft in the event that additional airlift capacity is necessary to move our troops around the globe.  This capability is a cornerstone of our military readiness when undertaking both warfighting and peacekeeping missions

However, American air carriers have been undermined for years by illegal and anti-competitive trade practices by the State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Their systematic efforts to circumvent and defy existing fair trade practices threaten the crucial role that a healthy aviation industry plays in our national security.

Any interference with military readiness puts the lives of American service members at risk, and we must demand that foreign powers are not allowed to do so with impunity.

After years of inaction from the Obama administration, President Trump finally initiated a mission to stand up both for our troops and for American aviation workers by holding Qatar and the UAE accountable for their behavior. After forcing Qatar to come to the table, he successfully negotiated an agreement that will provide greater transparency to Qatar Airways’ business transactions and stop them from establishing any potential “fifth-freedom” routes. This agreement goes a long way to protect American workers and stop foreign interference in our military readiness.  I thank the President for his effort and his success.

President Trump’s leadership on this crucial issue has been in keeping with his commitment to promote fair trade and strengthen national security, but more work remains to be done.  I have a request for the President: complete the mission.

The United Arab Emirates continues to inject massive subsidies into its two international airlines, Emirates and Etihad Airways. In fact, Emirates recently used that subsidy to purchase 16 billion dollars’ worth of Airbus A380s.  They will use these aircraft to continue artificially expanding capacity and distorting aviation markets around the world. By flying these massive planes on routes that do not necessitate the additional capacity and pricing the seats at unprofitably low rates, carriers that play by the rules, like U.S. airlines, will be forced to abandon once-profitable routes. This flagrant abuse of our trade agreements costs American jobs, and if they are allowed to continue these illegal and anti-competitive trade practices, U.S. military preparedness will continue to be threatened.

This is not acceptable. Although both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are vital allies in the Middle East, allies can have disagreements. When conflicts arise between friends, it is crucial to resolving them quickly and equitably in the interest of stability. Right now, the UAE and Qatar are embroiled in a diplomatic dispute, and the UAE is unlikely to follow Qatar’s lead and negotiate in good faith with the United States of their own accord. Therefore, action must be taken soon to bring them to the table. Thankfully, President Trump has already shown that he is the man for the job.

President Trump, your action against Qatar was an important first step in keeping America safe and our trade fair. But until the UAE comes to the table and takes significant steps to end the harm they have caused to the American aviation industry and its workers, and to U.S. military readiness, the mission is not yet complete.

Robert Mitchell is a cybersecurity entrepreneur, former Navy SEAL and CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer. 

Published on RealClearDefense.Com

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