The Acting Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Inverchapel)

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I am writing this personal letter to express my Government’s growing concern with recent developments in the field of international air transportation, particularly with respect [Page 1485] to arbitrary limitations which have been incorporated in inter-governmental arrangements on this subject.

When the bilateral air transport agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom was concluded at Bermuda on February 11, 1946, the joint press release of the two Delegations referred to it as representing “a sincere and determined effort to reconcile the widely divergent views by the two nations on the extent to which international air transport should be subject to government controls”. The Final Act of the Bermuda Conference also stated “that the two Governments had reached agreement on the procedure to be followed in the settlement of other matters in the field of civil aviation”, and proceeded to outline certain general principles.

It was the hope of my Government that its bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom would serve as a model for bilateral arrangements between any two countries, thus making a sound contribution to the wider development of international air transport. However, there now appears to be a trend away from certain of the Bermuda principles, especially those which impose no arbitrary limitations on frequencies and capacity, and which grant the right to carry Fifth Freedom traffic without undue restrictions.

For example, the British-French agreement on February 26[28] 194665 provides for an equal division of traffic between British and French airlines operating on certain routes, while the British-Argentine agreement of May 17, 194666 likewise envisages a quantitative division of capacity between the airlines of the two countries. It is also understood that the effect of the latter agreement will be to place serious limitations on the volume of Fifth Freedom traffic.

The United States Government continues to regard its bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom as an important step forward in the history of air transportation, but finds difficulty in reconciling certain of the Bermuda principles with the arrangements concluded by the United Kingdom with the above-named countries.

It is believed that a very difficult and confusing situation will result if, after having resolved our differences at Bermuda, the United States and British Governments proceed along divergent lines in concluding their bilateral air arrangements with other countries. Furthermore, my Government remains convinced that arbitrary restrictions on Fifth Freedom privileges and quantitative division of traffic and capacity will inevitably result in retarding the overall development of rapid communications, commerce and good will among all nations.

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I realize that this question is one which probably deserves further” consultation between our two Governments and I understand that aeronautical officials of the United States have been informally invited to London in September, at which time the matter could be discussed in greater detail. It is my Government’s earnest hope that the British Government’s implementation or ratification of its agreement with Argentina, in particular, could be deferred until these discussions.

In the meantime, however, I am prompted to inquire whether the British Government would be disposed, in the immediate future, to join with us in publicly espousing the principles of the Bermuda agreement in toto as a model for bilateral air negotiations between all countries.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson
  1. British Cmd. 6787.
  2. British Cmd. 6848.