A voice for the Amer­i­can worker

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion scores an­other vic­tory in the fight to pro­tect the U.S. avi­a­tion in­dus­try

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By James H. Burn­ley IV James H. Burn­ley IV was the U.S. sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan. He is a part­ner at Ven­able LLP and an ad­viser to Amer­i­can Air­lines.

Pres­i­dents are judged by how they stand up for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Whether it is pro­tect­ing U.S. jobs or safe­guard­ing our in­dus­tries and our jobs from foreign trade cheat­ing, we ex­pect our pres­i­dents to act in the best in­ter­ests of Amer­i­cans. That was one of the defin­ing prin­ci­ples of Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, and I was proud to put his agenda into ac­tion as his sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion. To­day, I see that same vi­sion com­ing from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. In less than 18 months, Pres­i­dent Trump has shown the world that he will al­ways be a voice for the Amer­i­can worker.

This week, that voice got louder. On Mon­day, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced a historic agree­ment with the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) over its Open Skies vi­o­la­tions. For more than a decade, the UAE sub­si­dized its air­lines — Emi­rates and Eti­had Air­ways — to the tune of more than $25 bil­lion. Those sub­si­dies vi­o­late the UAE’s Open Skies agree­ment with the United States, a bi­lat­eral treaty that al­lowed air­lines from the two coun­tries to travel back and forth with­out re­stric­tions or gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence.

Beyond the bla­tant trade cheat­ing, the UAE’s sub­si­dies put 1.2 mil­lion Amer­i­can jobs in jeop­ardy. These are work­ers who rely on a strong U.S. air­line in­dus­try — an in­dus­try that for decades has been a sym­bol of the strength and vi­brancy of the Amer­i­can econ­omy. To al­low it to crum­ble be­cause of foreign trade vi­o­la­tions would be un­fath­omable.

For­tu­nately, Mr. Trump acted de­ci­sively. His ad­min­is­tra­tion’s agree­ment with the UAE re­quires it to com­mit to un­prece­dented trans­parency mea­sures — from en­gag­ing in trans­ac­tions based on com­mer­cial terms to meet­ing new, tough fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure stan­dards. The UAE also agreed to freeze ad­di­tional “fifth free­dom” flights to the United States — routes that take pas­sen­gers be­tween two coun­tries with­out stop­ping in the car­rier’s home coun­try.

Peter Navarro, di­rec­tor of the White House Na­tional Trade Coun­cil, put it more suc­cinctly: “There will be no ad­di­tional routes into the United States until fur­ther no­tice.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the UAE ac­knowl­edged for the first time that gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies hurt com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter years of deny­ing the dan­ger­ous ef­fects of its sub­si­dies, this is with­out ques­tion a historic mo­ment.

It comes just a few short months af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ne­go­ti­ated a sim­i­lar agree­ment with Qatar over its sub­si­diza­tion of Qatar Air­ways. Col­lec­tively, these agree­ments rep­re­sent the most sig­nif­i­cant progress on this is­sue in over a decade.

Through­out this fight, U.S. air­lines, unions and the hun­dreds of thou­sands of work­ers they rep­re­sent have been sup­ported by more than 310 mem­bers of Congress, more than a dozen gov­er­nors and hun­dreds of lo­cal of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers. They are Repub­li­cans and Democrats. They come from ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try, ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas alike.

What they share is a de­sire to see a strong U.S. air­line in­dus­try. When that hap­pens, U.S. air­line work­ers can pay off their mort­gages, send their chil­dren to col­lege and save for re­tire­ment. And U.S. trav­el­ers get more choices and bet­ter op­tions for in­ter­na­tional travel, which in turn, al­lows U.S. car­ri­ers to ser­vice small and mid-sized com­mu­ni­ties around our great coun­try.

But the work is far from over. Ev­ery­one must re­main vigilant — from our elected of­fi­cials to avi­a­tion lead­ers to the men and women whose jobs were threat­ened. We can ex­pect the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to make sure the UAE and Qatar up­hold the agree­ments — and take a dim view of any at­tempt to shirk their com­mit­ments. In an­nounc­ing this deal, Mr. Navarro was clear: “What we ex­pect mov­ing for­ward is trans­parency, full ac­count­ing, stop­ping of sub­si­dies and a freeze on routes until fur­ther no­tice.”

Af­ter years of in­ac­tion by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to hold the UAE and Qatar ac­count­able, we are fi­nally see­ing real progress from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Just like Mr. Rea­gan, Mr. Trump has po­si­tioned him­self as a strong de­fender of Amer­i­can work­ers. For that, he de­serves our high praise.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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