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PARAMARIBO–Suriname and the United States of America on Thursday took a major step toward an open skies agreement. The draft agreement was initialed on Wednesday after three days of talks in Royal Torarica Hotel. The US embassy stated in a press release that when it goes into effect, the agreement will liberalize bilateral aviation relationships between the two countries; it will open the door for US carriers to operate in Suriname and vice versa. “The agreement will expand air service and encourage vigorous price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security,” the release said.
The agreement replaces an outdated aviation arrangement of 1957, which actually was signed between the United States and Suriname’s former colonizer, the Netherlands. This is therefore the first open sky agreement between Suriname and the USA. It does away with government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.
To get through the first round of talks surrounding the new open skies agreement, Suriname’s civil aviation authorities entered into negotiations on Tuesday, with a visiting delegation from the US civil aviation department. Gerard Brunings, chairman of Suriname national carrier Suriname Airways was hopeful from the start. “Both parties underscore the benefits of an open sky agreements and both want it to happen,” he said on Wednesday. He said the new agreement will bring Suriname many advantages.
The agreement first has to pass the National Assembly before it goes into effect. When it will be tabled by the legislators is not clear yet.
Brunings stressed that the agreement in no way heralds unfair competition for existing local carriers. He said the intention of the agreement is to liberalize the market, so everyone can reap fruits from the industry. “The intention is for companies from both our countries to cooperate, and find mutual economic benefits,” he said.
US Ambassador John Nay said at the signing ceremony that the framework agreement represents a win-win situation for both Suriname and the USA. Parties went over it line by line to ensure that the interests of both countries were addressed. He said the agreement will strengthen and expand trade and tourism links that benefit American and Surinamese businesses and travelers.
Nay said that the agreement is at international standards and expressed hopes that it will encourage expanded airline connections between the two countries. “Airlines appreciate knowing that that they are operating on the basis of standard agreements,” he said.
Suriname’s national airline SLM currently has a service to Miami, with stops in Georgetown, Guyana and Oranjestad, Aruba. These flights are carried out under the outdated 1957 arrangement between the US and the Netherlands. There are currently no US carriers operating in Suriname. The USA has open skies policies with more than 100 countries in every region of the world.