ALPA Presents Pilot Agenda to EU Negotiator

Air Line Pilot, June/July 2004, p.34

As the United States and the European Union prepared to engage in a fifth round of negotiations on an aviation trade agreement, ALPA played a pivotal role in making the U.S. position clear.

The Europeans have been insisting throughout the negotiations that the next agreement must grant them total access to the U.S. domestic market via foreign ownership and control, rights of establishment, as well as foreign cabotage—positions that ALPA vigorously opposes.

At the conclusion of the third round, the head of the European delegation, European Commission Transport Minister Loyola de Palacio, complained to the U.S. delegation that she was not convinced that the big-ticket items she was seeking were impossible. U.S. negotiators had said that because Congress has to approve any agreement and this is an election year, her plan simply had too much political opposition.

Her position was that, with Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, anything was possible. The U.S. delegation advised her to come to Washington, D.C., a couple days before the fifth round to meet with some senior Republican and Democratic senators and representatives to hear about the opposition directly from the source.

Most important, they added, she should also visit one of the principal sources of political opposition—the office at 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., occupied by ALPA’s president.

"Ms. de Palacio and her staff did meet with me in my office for more than an hour on Monday," Capt. Duane Woerth reflected later that week. He presented the pilots’ case against foreign airlines carrying cabotage traffic in the United States and ALPA’s stand on other important international issues.

"Before she left," Capt. Woerth continued, "she said that she would be publicly threatening to renounce all the European bilateral agreements if the EU did not achieve its negotiating objective of market access. I replied that renunciation would be a bad public policy choice because of the destabilizing effect it would have on airlines in general and alliances that have antitrust immunity in particular.

"I also indicated, however, that renunciation would be preferable to the United States acceding to the EU proposals and told her I would advise the U.S. Secretary of Transportation of these views immediately upon her leaving my office," Capt. Woerth continued. "I did just that."

The U.S./EU negotiations continued with the objective of seeing if a deal could be reached before the meeting of the European transport ministers on June 10-11. A full report on the negotiations will appear in the August issue of Air Line Pilot.

White House Rejects AFL-CIO Trade Petition

On May 11, in a brief Federal Register notice, the Bush administration officially rejected the AFL-CIO’s petition alleging that the Chinese government’s systemic and brutal repression of workers’ rights is an unfair trade practice.

The AFL-CIO filed the unprecedented petition in March under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974—the principal statutory authority under which the United States may impose trade sanctions against a foreign government.

The union federation demanded that President Bush use all the policy tools at his disposal to ensure that the Chinese government comply with internationally recognized workers’ rights. The petition argued that the Chinese government’s repression of workers’ rights is costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States and distorting global labor markets. The AFL-CIO asked the U.S. trade representative to impose trade remedies on China to offset the unfair and illegitimate cost advantage that comes from repressing workers’ rights.

"The Bush administration appears to have decided that it does not need to enforce the trade laws that Congress has put in place," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on May 11. "Instead, it is continuing to pursue an all-talk-and-no-action policy with the Chinese government on the crucial issues of workers’ rights violations and currency manipulation. The three-sentence rationale in today’s Federal Register completely avoids the substance of the very serious allegations in our petition and gives no legal basis for refusing to even investigate the charges we made."

Also in May, the AFL-CIO accepted China Vice-Premier Wu Yi’s invitation to travel to China to investigate Chinese working conditions. He had extended the invitation during trade talks with the Bush administration here in April.

In accepting, Sweeney wrote to the Vice-Premier: "I would request that in addition to meeting with you and other government officials, our delegation be given the same freedom of movement in China afforded the numerous delegations from China that visit the United States each year." The AFL-CIO offered to travel as soon as August.