Expanding freedom for air cargo services has been a subject of examination by ICAO, States and the industry in the last two air transport conferences in the context of liberalizing market access. ICAO has also developed related guidance and regulatory arrangement, such as the bilateral model clause (an annex on air cargo) endorsed by ATConf/5, which is included in the ICAO Template Air Services Agreement (TASA) for use by States.
In terms of possible approaches for liberalizing air cargo services, ATConf/5 recommended that States may do so at their discretion unilaterally, bilaterally or through a multilateral approach. This guidance continues to be relevant today.
As agreed at ATConf/5, air cargo and, in particular, all cargo operations should be considered for accelerated liberalization. In this regard, both States and ICAO can play a role in advancing liberalization. States can, within the existing air service agreement framework, consider granting more freedom and operational flexibility for air cargo services, catering to distinct features and requirements of air cargo operations and customers.
ICAO can play a leadership role in exploring multilateral approaches, as recommended by ATConf/5. One approach ICAO could consider is the development of a specific international agreement to facilitate further liberalization of all cargo service. Such an agreement could be built on existing provisions, such as the ICAO model clause on air cargo or those included in open skies agreements to provide traffic rights and operational flexibility.
Such an undertaking would require careful study and preparation, including consultation with experts, States, and aviation stakeholders. In light of the different conditions and needs of States, the agreement could be prepared for signature for willing and ready parties initially, and opened for subsequent accession by others. Such an action, if agreed by the international aviation community, would represent a significant step forward in the development of sustainable international air transport. It should be noted that a recent survey of States in October 2012 revealed that 78 per cent of the responding States (48 of 61) supported ICAO taking this action.