President Donald Trump and his administration just took important action to keep America safe and to keep our trade fair by striking an important agreement with the United Arab Emirates to end its aviation trade cheating and freeze its plans for future incoming indirect routes (known as 5th Freedom flights) to the United States.
As a former Navy SEAL and CIA paramilitary operations officer, I know firsthand how important reliable airlift is to our ability to meet global mission requirements. We cannot stand for any weakening of our readiness, especially by foreign nations who circumvent our trade laws. President Trump’s successful negotiation will ensure that the U.S. military’s ability to deploy troops, strategic assets, and supplies effectively, efficiently and without interruption around the globe will remain unimpeded. This is critical to our national security and President Trump deserves recognition for this important victory for America.
Using his skills as a negotiator and a dealmaker, the president and his team brought the UAE — a strategic military ally in the Gulf — to the negotiating table and secured a deal that protects American aviation jobs now and in the future. The UAE and its state-owned airlines, Emirates and Etihad, have been found cheating their aviation trade agreements with the United States by distorting the marketplace with subsidies and seat dumping. This is not only unfair to American workers who must compete against these subsidies; it also puts U.S. national security at risk.
President Trump said “no more,” and ensured that a framework was put in place to prevent further harm to America’s economy.
The UAE, like Qatar, which President Trump negotiated a deal with this past January, now must abide by international accounting rules. This will ensure that their marketplace distortion will end or they will face severe enforcement penalties. The deal with the UAE, in fact, is stronger than the deal with Qatar, as both parties recognize that subsidies are dishonest, specifically stating, “such government support in whatever form may adversely impact competition in providing international air transportation.” This is an improvement over the deal with the Qatar, because Qatar did not recognize the harm their subsidies cause to international competition and the United States. The UAE proved itself in this negotiation to be truly interested in correcting its mistakes by recognizing the harm it has done and agreeing to meaningful changes going forward.
Qatar, however, while agreeing to greater transparency, did not go as far as the UAE and actually accept responsibility that illegal subsidies are harmful to the United States. Further, shortly after the agreement with the Qatar was finalized, one of the subsidies of the state-owned Qatar Airways, an airline it recently purchased in Italy renamed to Air Italy (from Meridiana), announced new service to the United States. This route may be in violation of the agreement freezing any new 5th Freedom flights, and the Trump administration must look into this with great interest and ensure that if it is in violation, that the agreement is enforced and this flight is prohibited.
I have a profound appreciation for the role the U.S. civil air transport industry plays in our nation’s military preparedness, supplementing the resources of our Defense Department. When I served the Navy, our Special Operations Forces regularly deployed around the world — to dozens of countries — and we often relied on our nation’s commercial aviation industry for transportation. When the UAE and Qatar were cheating our trade agreements, they were undercutting our civil air transport partners upon whom our military relies. That put U.S. workers at a disadvantage, and put the U.S. companies and workers the military relies on at unacceptable risk. The actions taken by the Trump administration with the UAE and Qatar will help to level the playing field for U.S. workers, and safeguard the readiness of our civil air transport partners when the military needs them.
Robert Mitchell is a cybersecurity entrepreneur, former Navy SEAL and former CIA paramilitary operations officer.
Published on The Daily Caller.