|That was Emirates Airways CEO Tim Clark’s response to a question about what would happen if the United States government negotiates an Open Skies enforcement agreement with the United Arab Emirates as the U.S. has recently done with the State of Qatar.
Mr. Clark’s response was based on his false narrative that enforcing Open Skies agreements means ending them or changing them. We have addressed this favorite anti-fair competition talking point before, but make no mistake; Mr. Clarke’s words were chosen very carefully.
There are two ways to look at Mr. Clark’s comments.
First, by claiming that if the U.S. were to enforce its Open Skies agreement, Emirates would no longer need the 150 Boeing wide-body passenger aircraft it has on order, he is admitting that his airline intends to fly those aircraft into the United States, ensuring the playing field remains stacked against the U.S. and substantially increasing the harm to U.S. airlines and their employees. This admission shows that Emirates has plans to further distort the international and U.S. aviation market by dumping unwarranted capacity, also known as seat dumping, into routes U.S. airlines fly, forcing them to abandon international routes and thereby cut U.S. jobs. After all, U.S. airlines have to make a profit, whereas Tim Clark and his state-subsidized airline are operating at the largess of the government and have never been concerned about profit. U.S. airlines and their employees can compete and win against any airline when the playing field is level, but Mr. Clark has tried very hard to ensure that the deck is and remains stacked against the United States.
Second, it was a threat. By making that statement, Clark, apparently speaking on behalf of the government, is clearly stating for all to hear that unless the United States government bends to the will of the United Arab Emirates, he will cancel a massive Boeing order. Does that sound like the attitude of a healthy and productive trade partnership? No. Instead, it appears that Clark, and by extension the UAE, are more interested in threats and deceit than negotiating in good faith and abiding by U.S. and international standards.
This second explanation is in keeping with the fact that the United Arab Emirates is showing itself to be a worse trade partner and ally than its main Gulf rival: the State of Qatar. When the Trump administration approached Qatar in an attempt to finally address the long-running aviation subsidization dispute, Qatar agreed to negotiate, and President Trump scored the first big win on this issue in years. President Trump accomplished what President Obama could not do with Qatar, and now has the opportunity to complete the mission with the UAE.
The State of Qatar, a country not dissimilar to the United Arab Emirates in terms of its relationship to the United States, also has billions of dollars worth of aircraft on order from Boeing for its national carrier. However, unlike the UAE and Mr. Clark, Qatar Airways and its national owner, the State of Qatar, did not publicly hold that order hostage to defend their unfair and anti-competitive trade practices. Instead, they came to the negotiating table in good faith, and the resulting agreement is a positive step forward for U.S. workers, the global aviation community and towards ending Qatar’s subsidies of its airline and violations of its Open Skies trade agreement with the U.S.