AP NEWS

Matt Gaetz urges Trump to enforce Open Skies deal with Qatar

March 14, 2019

A Republican ally of President Trump is urging the president to enforce an agreement with Qatar aimed at stopping illegal subsidies for its state-owned airline, saying the Middle Eastern nation is cheating on the deal and harming U.S. airline workers.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Mr. Trump in a letter obtained by The Washington Times that Qatar is “blatantly” violating the Open Skies agreement that is intended to ensure fair competition.

The lawmaker said soon after the agreement was reached last year, Qatar Airways purchased an Italian regional airline with $100 million euros from the Qatari government and announced that the new “Air Italy” would fly to five cities in the U.S. In December, a bipartisan group of senators raised similar concerns with the administration.

“Not only does Qatar’s cheating undermine competition and threaten American workers over 1,500 American jobs are lost for every route launched into the U.S. by a subsidized Middle Eastern carrier but it directly and deliberately threatens our ‘America First’ policies,” the lawmaker wrote.

He said the Open Skies agreement was supposed to halt the expansion by Qatar Airways into the U.S. until its state subsidies were halted completely.

“Air Italy is nothing more than a proxy airline for Qatar to get around the deal it signed after pledging to stop this trade cheating,” Mr. Gaetz wrote to the president.

The lawmaker urged Mr. Trump to “continue standing up to Qatar and demanding enforcement of the deal they are violating or we must withdraw from the agreement altogether.” He said the United Arab Emirates is also violating the agreement with subsidies for Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The White House had no immediate response to the letter.