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EU and U.S. to hold talks next month on aviation deal

EU and U.S. to hold talks next month on aviation deal

The European Union and the United States said they were committed to striking a deal opening up air travel between the regions, despite a recent setback, and would hold more talks next month.
Air travel in Europe and the United States accounts for 60 percent of global air traffic, and an ambitious EU-U.S. open skies deal could allow more airlines to fly the lucrative trans-Atlantic routes, and possibly offer cheaper tickets.
The EU had been pushing the U.S. to lift restrictions that limit foreign ownership of U.S. carriers to 25 percent, saying it told U.S. officials in Brussels for talks of its "deep regret and disappointment" that the Bush administration had failed to win support to reform the rules.
They agreed, however, that they could still push ahead with an agreement, building on earlier negotiations.
"Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of concluding an EU-U.S. agreement that would open access to markets and maximize benefits for consumers, airlines, labor and communities on both sides of the Atlantic," the EU said.
"To that effect ... the two delegations agreed to identify areas where improvements might be made," it said.
Talks will continue in Washington in the week of Feb. 6 to examine and discuss proposals, the EU said.
Air travel across the Atlantic is governed by strict rules that only allow a limited number of airlines fly to European airports and prevent European airlines from operating flights to the U.S. outside their own home nation.
This has held back combinations between European carriers and blocks a new wave of low-cost carriers from competing with former state-owned air companies on trans-Atlantic routes.
U.S. labor unions, some airlines and Republicans and Democrats had opposed a move to open up American aviation to outsiders, worrying that it could cost U.S. jobs and allow foreign investors _ even foreign governments _ control over an industry critical to national security.