x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Open up your airports, Japan

The Japanese government's reluctance to allow other airlines access to its market is at best puzzling; at worst, protectionist. One of its main airlines, Japan Airlines, has been forced to seek creditor protection.

TOKYO // In the days when the train was the main vehicle of conveyance, it paid to put your business beside the track, and wise mayors did their best to ensure the railroad passed by their city. In today's world, burgeoning trade links are best served by rail, road and ship - but above all, by airlines. If you bring planes full of people and goods, trade picks up. So the Japanese government's reluctance to allow other airlines access to its market is at best puzzling; at worst, protectionist. One of its main airlines, Japan Airlines, has been forced to seek creditor protection.

Obviously Japan has been in the economic doldrums with only the occasional lapse since the boom days of the 1980s. The temptation for it to put up the barricades must be overwhelming. But that is the wrong thing to do. They should be opening doors and welcoming any new arrivals. There are already decent trade links between the UAE and Japan. Trade between the two is now close to Dh107.2 billion (US$29.19bn) a year, official figures show. There are about 350 Japanese companies operating in the UAE, and more than 3,500 Japanese expatriates living in the country.

More should be encouraged to come, but the compliment should also be returned. There are 125 airlines that fly into Dubai. It has been the policy of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for many years to welcome anybody or any business. Such competition has not weakened Emirates Airline; in fact, it has probably made it stronger. Likewise, the competition between Emirates and Etihad Airways is good for the customers, but probably also good for the managers, as it keeps them on their toes. In a similar fashion, competition is good for countries. Transport links are like rivers: without them, everything dries up.

rwright@thenational.ae