DRAFT REMARKS FOR AMBASSADOR WHITEHEAD
OPEN SKIES AGREEMENT SIGNING CEREMONY
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION
LOME – APRIL 2, 2015
I am delighted to be here today to conclude the Open Skies Air Transport Agreement between the governments of the United States and Togo. The signing of the final agreement today marks the successful culmination of three years of hard work, discussions, and negotiations . And for that, I would like to extend a special thanks to Minister of Transportation Gnofam and ANAC Director General Colonel Latta for their efforts in making the Open Skies Agreement become a reality.
Negotiations between the United States and Togo over an Open Skies Agreement began in 2012. This historic agreement represents the first civil air transport agreement between the United States and Togo and is an important step forward in the the United States’ government’s goal to improve the investment climate and support economic development in Togo. The Open Skies Agreement will provide for, among other things, more open air routes, liberal charter rules, and expanded rights vis-à-vis air cargo between our two countries.
The United States has pursued a policy of Open Skies civil aviation relationships with our international partners since 1992, when we concluded the first ever Open Skies air services agreement with the Netherlands. The reasons for our unwavering commitment to Open Skies Agreements are evident. When air carriers can make their own decisions about routes, capacity, and pricing, everyone benefits. There is more travel and trade between countries, resulting in more jobs and economic growth. Consumers can make their decisions based on the merits of an air service – not its exclusiveness. And that encourages air carriers to provide safer, more affordable and more convenient routes.
Upon signing this agreement today, Togo joins twenty-six African countries, including its neighbors Benin and Ghana, who already have an Open Skies Agreement in force. Unlike its neighbors, however, Togo is poised to soon inaugurate a modern new airport terminal in Lomé. The new terminal is projected to accommodate five times the passenger traffic of the current terminal, further cementing Lome’s place as a regional air transport hub.
In conclusion, by welcoming free competition in the aviation sector and expanded cargo and passenger transportation, we take the United States-Togo bilateral economic relationship to the next level –building a more economically prosperous future for the citizens of our two countries.