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Canada, EU sign historic deal to open skies

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Canada and the 27-nation European Union Tuesday concluded a landmark aviation agreement that throws open their markets to each other and lifts restrictions on airline ownership, number of flights, routes and fare prices.

The historic agreement, which may kick in early next year, will allow any airline from Europe to operate to any city in Canada and vice versa. There will no restriction on the number of flights, routes or fare rates.

“The successful conclusion of air transport negotiations with the European Union is another step forward in our ongoing efforts to facilitate growth in trade, investment and tourism for Canadian business,” Canadian Transport Minister John Baird said.

“In these uncertain times, closer global partnerships will help stimulate our economy and expand commercial links. This is why our government celebrates this historic air transport agreement with the EU, which will open access to all 27 member states for Canadian carriers and all points in Canada for EU carriers,” he said.

The minister said the agreement will benefit travellers and shippers by providing more choices of destinations, flights and routes, direct services, and the potential for lower fares.

Lauding the accord, Stockwell Day, minister for international trade, added, “Without question, these times call for closer economic cooperation among key players in the global economy.

“This comprehensive air transport agreement helps to bring Canada and the EU to a new level of cooperation. It will help create new jobs for our economy, a competitive market for our businesses, and connections for our citizens.”

The agreement is one up on the similar US-EU agreement which does not allow European airlines to take over any US airline.

Though the deal is expected to generate millions in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe, many fear it could spell further problems for the already troubled Canadian airlines – national carrier Air Canada and privately owned WestJet.

Many small Canadian airlines have sunk since 9/11 and even Air Canada had to file for bankruptcy in 2003 to avoid going under. The EU is Canada’s second largest bilateral aviation, trade and investment market after the US.