US, Qatar reach agreement on subsidy spat with airlines

US, Qatar reach agreement on subsidy spat with airlines
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (L) talks to Defense Minister Khalid bin Muhammad Al-Attiyah, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R) at the inaugural US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, US. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018

US, Qatar reach agreement on subsidy spat with airlines

US, Qatar reach agreement on subsidy spat with airlines

WASHINGTON: The United States and Qatar on Tuesday inked a deal to resolve a years-old quarrel over alleged airline subsidies, as Qatar’s government works to defuse tensions with the Trump administration.
A formal announcement came Tuesday, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosted the inaugural round of the US-Qatar strategic dialogue. Agreements, on security and counter-terrorism cooperation and combatting human trafficking, were also signed.
“Qatar is a strong partner and long-time friend of the United States,” Tillerson said, welcoming the agreements. Tuesday’s meeting follows harsh criticism of Qatar from President Donald Trump. He denounced the country last year for allegedly funding terrorism amid a row between the country and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who have imposed a land, sea and air blockade on it.
Qatar hopes to change that narrative by enhancing counterterrorism cooperation and allowing greater US visibility into its finances and banking practices.
Tillerson and Mattis said the US remains deeply concerned about the situation as it nears its eight-month mark, including hostile “rhetoric and propaganda” being employed. They called on all parties to the dispute to renew efforts to end it.
Qatar is home to a major US military base that is key to the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria and Mattis said that “a united GCC bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts.”
The aviation agreement will see state-owned Qatar Airways agree voluntarily to open up its accounting books. US airlines say the company receives billions of dollars in government payments that leave them at a competitive disadvantage. Qatar also made a loose commitment that the flag carrier won’t launch flights to the United States from Europe or other non-Qatari cities, creating yet more competition for the US airlines.
Both sides of the dispute can claim the agreement as a victory — for very different reasons.
The US airline industry can claim the increased transparency will create a powerful disincentive to unfair subsidies, as Qatar will no longer be able to mask such payments through creative accounting. The three major US carriers — Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines — have spent huge sums over the last three years pressing the Obama administration and Trump administration for tough action. They’re eager to show a win.
Yet for Qatar, the agreement averts the more serious step US airlines wanted: re-opening the so-called open-skies treaties that could lead to less favorable conditions for Arabian Gulf airlines. And, it means that Qatar can also show it’s cooperating closely and productively with US regulators.
That could help the tiny gas-rich kingdom draw a contrast with the United Arab Emirates, whose two airlines are also accused of improper subsidies but have yet to reach an agreement with Washington.
“Everybody gets to claim victory in this,” said Helane Becker, an airline analyst for Cowen and Co.
Indeed, even before the announcement, American, the world’s biggest airline by passenger traffic, praised the deal as a way to “thoughtfully address” Qatari subsidies. And United CEO Oscar Munoz applauded the agreement while thanking Trump’s administration for “effectively representing the interests of the American aviation industry.”
In an eight-paragraph document laying out “understandings” between Qatar and the US, the Gulf nation commited within one year to releasing audited financial statements for Qatar Airlines “in accordance with internationally-recognized accounting standards.” Within two years, Qatar Airways is to disclose any transactions with other state-owned entities, such as caterers or other companies that support airline operations.
A side-letter to the agreement stated that Qatar’s civilian aviation authority is unaware of any plans by Qatar Airlines to start so-called “Fifth Freedoms” flights — routes from third countries to the United States. Under the scenario US airlines fear, Qatar Airways could offer flights from its Doha hub to, say, Paris or London, stop to pick up more passengers, then fly on to New York.
The side-letter only says there are no current plans to operate such service. That’s short of a binding guarantee. There’s also no commitment Qatar Airways won’t expand its offering of Qatar-US flights.
“This appears to be the administration essentially throwing a meatless bone to the three US carriers to put an end to their rants against the Gulf carriers,” said John Byerly, who was the chief open skies negotiator in the Obama administration and has also consulted for Emirates Airline and UPS.
The two UAE airlines — Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways — aren’t a party to the US-Qatar agreement. Emirates Airline currently offers “Fifth Freedom” flights in which passengers can fly from New York-area airports to Milan, Italy or Athens without ever setting foot in the UAE.
All three Gulf airlines have long denied receiving unfair government subsidies. There was no immediate reaction from either Emirates or Etihad.


UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
Updated 22 January 2021

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
  • Dubai Economy issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses in 2020
  • Kuwait records 570 cases, Oman reports 169 cases and 1 death

DUBAI: Authorities in the UAE on Thursday recorded 3,529 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily count to date, and four more deaths related to the disease.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention said the total number of cases in the country has reached 267,258, while the death toll stands at 766. A total of 239,322 patients have recovered from the disease, including 3,901 in the past 24 hours.
Dubai Economy, the emirate’s economic development authority, said it carried out 140,000 inspection visits last year, as a result of which it issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses for failing to comply with precautionary measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.

During their latest daily inspection tours, the authority’s officials ordered one business to close, and issued 23 fines and two warnings for not following the health precautions.
Meanwhile Dubai Municipality announced it has stepped up its inspection campaigns. It added that five businesses were ordered to close, 18 were fined, and warnings were issued to 31 for lack of compliance with precautionary measures.
Dubai Tourism said it has issued more than 200 violation notices during the past three weeks and closed down about 20 establishments. It also announced that all previously issued entertainment permits are “on hold, effective immediately,” and added it will continue to evaluate the situation in consultation with the health authorities.
The General Department of Punitive and Correctional Institutions in Dubai Police has started to give the coronavirus vaccine to inmates of penal and correctional institutions, as part of the emirate’s efforts to achieve acquired immunity, according to a report by state news agency WAM.

Inmates reportedly said they were happy to be vaccinated and praised Dubai Police and medical staff in the prisons for providing them with the vaccinations, medical advice and check ups.
The Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, has launched a campaign to vaccinate people with disabilities, and their families. The effort will begin at the organization’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, before expanding to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra regions.

Abdullah Abdul Ali Al-Humaidan, the organization’s secretary-general, said that the vaccine is the safest and most effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the health and safety of the public.
Meanwhile, Umm Al-Quwain’s Executive Council informed all government agencies in the emirate that anti-coronavirus measures due to be implemented from Jan. 24 are being amended. The notice said all government employees will be required to take a PCR test every seven days, at their own expense, if they have not received the required two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This also applies to outsourced employees and public-service companies.
The council also urged all government agencies in the emirate to encourage their employees and workers to get the vaccination, which is available to everyone free of charge.
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 570 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total in the country to 159,834. The death toll remains at 951, with no additional deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 169 new cases and one additional death, bringing the national totals to 132,486 and 1,517, respectively.

In Bahrain the death toll stands at 366 after no new deaths were reported. The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 305.