Restrictions on national ownership and control, access, capacity, frequency, and pricing diminish the contribution of aviation to trade, tourism, job creation and economic growth. Although some Arab governments have unilaterally adopted open skies policies, the relations between Arab states is still mostly bound by bilateral agreements mainly covering 3rd and 4th freedoms of traffic, while there’s a small number of 5th freedom rights granted.
AACO has always been an advocate of liberalization in terms of market access and ownership and control of airlines. In the region, AACO participated in the formation of the Damascus Convention with the Arab Civil Aviation Commission since 2004 and urged states throughout the years to adopt the convention in their bilateral relations with other Arab countries due to the benefits it would bring to the consumer travelling in the region.
Liberalization of market access in between Arab states and investments by other Arab states in Arab airlines is still restricted although a starting tool has been developed for such liberalization i.e. the Damascus Convention.
The Damascus Convention is the multilateral agreement for the liberalization of air transport between Arab countries. It was adopted by the Council of Arab Transport Ministers in 2004 where 13 Arab states signed the Convention and entered into force in 2007 after being ratified by 8 states: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and the UAE.
It covers fundamental principles of liberalization that include market access, ownership and control of airlines, and fair competition. In particular, the Convention covers the following major issues, in addition to others:
- Market Access: Liberalized within first five Freedoms
- Fair Competition:
- States to ensure their policies, practices & laws conform to international agreements
- Seeks to harmonize competition provisions at multilateral level
- Non-Discrimination between air carriers
- Anti-Dumping Policies
- Anti-Trust Rules
- Ownership & Control of Carriers: Airlines to be owned by state or nationals or a number of states party to the agreement.
Link to the Text of the Damascus Convention
Link to Resolutions of the Council of Arab Transport Ministers relevant to the Damascus Convention
Work at ICAO
ICAO’s 38th Assembly that was held in 2013 has requested the ICAO Council to “develop and adopt a long-term vision for international air transport liberalization, including examination of an international agreement by which States could liberalize market access, taking into account the past experience and achievements of States, including existing market access liberalization agreements concluded at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, as well as the various proposals presented during the Sixth Worldwide Air Transport Conference (ATConf/6);…”