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The Hill — Norwegian Air case will define the president’s aviation legacy

As published by Edward Wytkind in The Hill.

“I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules.” Those were President Obama’s words in 2012 explaining his view of U.S. trade policy.

Following this same principle, the Obama administration negotiated a new air services agreement with the European Union (EU) which included, for the first time, a labor article to protect aviation workers on both sides of the Atlantic, and to ensure that the parties to the agreement all played by the same rules.  The U.S. State Department at the time referred to that labor article (known as Article 17 bis) as “groundbreaking.”

But now, the President’s trade principles are failing a critical stress test. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) made the controversial decision to permit Norwegian Air International (NAI) to launch service into the U.S. in direct violation of this “groundbreaking” labor article.

The president’s decision on whether to intervene in the NAI case will define his aviation legacy.

The facts in the NAI case are clear and tell a chilling tale about the failures of U.S. trade policy. NAI is an Irish subsidiary of Norway-based Norwegian Air Shuttle, an airline that already has DOT authority to fly into the U.S. and currently serves several markets here. Why base NAI in Ireland you ask? Because in Ireland, NAI’s parent company can evade Norway’s tax and employment laws and escape collective bargaining obligations to its own employees. In Ireland it can instead hire pilots and flight attendants under short-term, individual employment contracts arranged by a hiring agency in Singapore.

Read more in The Hill.

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