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U.S., Canada eye aviation reform, investment in border capacity

U.S., Canada eye aviation reform, investment in border capacity

   The United States and Canada said Thursday they are committed to further opening aviation markets and expanding border infrastructure to support the largest trade partnership in the world.

   Canadian Transport Minister Jean-C. Lapierre and U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta met in Ottawa at an aviation conference and issued a joint statement saying the two countries would soon begin framework negotiations for talks on eliminating remaining economic restrictions on airlines.

   The air services agreement in place since 1994 has lead to a 124 percent increase in scheduled cargo volume, from 121,000 tons to 271,000 tons, and opened up direct air service to 81 more U.S. cities, Mineta said in speech at the Canadian Open Skies Forum.

   Despite close ties between the neighboring countries, the United States does not have the same “open skies” agreement with Canada that it has with 67 other countries. Airlines must still return to their home country of operation before serving a third country and cannot make multi-city cargo deliveries.

   “The United States and Canada ought not to be playing catch-up when it comes to air services — we ought to be setting the pace,” Mineta said. An open skies agreement could be the necessary step towards creating a regional aviation bloc similar to the common rules Europe has in place, Mineta said.

   The United States is also trying to open up air markets in Europe and other regions.

   The transportation leaders emphasized the importance of adding another bridge or tunnel to alleviate congestion at the Detroit/Windsor, Ontario crossing, the largest commercial gateway in terms of trade volume between the two nations. They said they hoped to complete environmental and economic impact studies for a new crossing by 2007 and build it by 2013.

   Competing proposals and interests have tied up progress towards a new river crossing for several years. A bi-national panel has had trouble reaching consensus on a project with jurisdiction split between many local, state and federal jurisdictions, each having multiple agencies with a stake in the project.

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