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US Prods China To Open Aviation

December 3, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ U.S. officials trying to prod China to increase air passenger and cargo services between the countries drew an unexpectedly encouraging response from their Chinese counterparts in talks that ended today.

The U.S. team pushed for increasing the number of flights, both direct and through third countries, and ticketing agreements between airlines, said David Marchick, deputy assistant secretary of state for transportation.

``The discussion was very comprehensive, very detailed, very forward looking and in a very cooperative manner,″ Marchick said. ``This has been in contrast to previous discussions which were more contentious.″

In three previous meetings, Marchick said Civil Aviation deputy director Shen Yuankang gave him 20 minutes; this time the pair talked for six hours over two days.

Another round of meetings is planned in Washington later this month and, if all goes well, formal negotiations on a new air services agreement could begin early next year, Marchick said.

Pushing air services is part of the Clinton administration’s trade strategy. Washington has already concluded 31 open-skies agreements _ which Marchick likened to ``free trade of the air″ _ and an expanded air accord with Japan.

China is one of the countries it is now targeting.

Washington is seeking to increase the current weekly total of 54 passenger and cargo flights and expand code-sharing arrangements between airlines to facilitate travel.

U.S. airlines Delta and American and cargo handlers United Parcel Services and Polar want to get into China, which is now served by Northwest and United airlines and Federal Express.

Air ``service with the United States and China lags far behind the other elements of our economic relationship,″ Marchick said.

An outline of the presentation Marchick gave the Chinese officials showed that China’s $75 billion in trade with the United States was 40 percent of U.S.-Japanese trade, but flights were just one-tenth of those between the United States and Japan.

Marchick said business executives want to invest in places they can travel to easily. He told the Chinese that it took him three flights, including a five-hour layover in Tokyo, to reach Beijing from Washington.

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