Trump Administration Rethinking International Aviation Agreements with Gulf Countries

The Trump administration is rethinking a couple of international aviation agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar amid allegations that the Persian Gulf nations are unfairly subsidizing their state-run airlines, three administration officials told Politico.

The administration is facing increasing pressure from three of the biggest American airlines — Delta, United and American — to do something about the Gulf carriers’ low ticket prices, with the U.S. airlines arguing they can’t compete with the UAE and Qatar’s deep pockets.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, chief of staff Reince Priebus and other senior administration officials have been discussing the issue behind the scenes for months, the officials said. Staffers from the NEC, National Security Council, Transportation Department and other agencies huddled for the latest strategy meeting on the aviation agreements last week while Trump’s senior aides were in Europe.

The aviation deal being debated — called Open Skies agreements — allows airlines to operate internationally with limited government interference. The United States has signed more than 100 such pacts, including with Qatar and the UAE.

Administration officials cautioned that they have not yet reached a consensus about what they should do, if anything, and a final decision is not imminent. Options on the table include informal talks with the UAE and Qatar to limit the number of flights into the U.S. or restrict certain routes. Another option is terminating the agreements with those countries and using the one-year period before the termination goes into effect to negotiate better terms.

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