Attention in the UK's debate over EU membership has tended to focus on trade and on whether it would be possible to replicate the agreements that the EU has established with more than 50 countries.
Last week, the European Commission reminded everyone that it is also busily negotiating another set of agreements — concerning international aviation — which will, it suggests, create new economic opportunities and be of particular benefit to businesses.
Essentially what the Commission wants to do, through its new “Aviation Strategy for Europe” is to replace a patchwork of agreements reached by Member States with non-EU countries with new Union-level aviation agreements.
It has been mandated by the 28 Member States to open negotiations with ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the Gulf Cooperation Council States, China, Turkey, Mexico and Armenia.
The Commission points out that, since the conclusion of similar agreements with the USA and Canada, the combined growth in passengers between the EU and these markets has been more than three million.
Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said: "Global connectivity is a driver of trade and tourism, directly contributing to economic growth and job creation. I am pleased that we have the support from the 28 EU Transport Ministers to upgrade Europe's aviation relations with some of our key partners."
An agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council States alone is estimated to be worth over €8 billion during the first eight years of the agreement (2018–25) as well helping to create 8300 new jobs by the end of that period.