Questions & Answers for Information Docket on Claims Raised about State-Owned Airlines in Qatar and the UAE
The U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, and Transportation are reviewing claims that three foreign airlines – Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways – have received and are benefitting from subsidies from their respective governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar that are distorting the global aviation market. The claims, which are asserted in a publicly available report, are of significant interest to stakeholders and all three Federal agencies. The U.S. government takes seriously the concerns raised in the report and is interested in receiving insights and feedback from stakeholders before any decisions are made regarding what action, if any, should be taken. Accordingly, consistent with the Obama Administration’s Open Government Initiative and commitment to transparency, public participation, and collaboration, the three Departments are announcing the establishment of an open forum by which any interested stakeholder may submit information regarding their views on this subject and have access to the information submitted by other interested stakeholders.
Beginning April 10, any interested person or group may submit information, responses to existing materials, or any other analysis that they might wish to provide the U.S. government on this subject on the www.regulations.gov website. Each Department will have a corresponding number – listed below – on www.regulations.gov, and all submissions will be reviewed jointly by the interagency team. All correspondence received by the Departments after the issuance of this notice will be considered part of this submission process and will be posted in www.regulations.gov for the benefit of the public, unless the submitter has requested and been granted confidential treatment of commercial information by the Departments. To the extent allowed by law, the Departments will protect trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information from disclosure, and will follow their established procedures under the Freedom of Information Act, Executive Order 12600, and the relevant Department regulations for handling requests that seek disclosure of confidential business information.
Any stakeholder that has previously submitted letters on this matter to the Departments can also submit such previous correspondence to the www.regulations.gov website. All material posted will be deemed to be public and freely accessible by any interested person.
The three Departments encourage submissions to be made as soon as practicable, as review of any new material submitted to the joint docket is expected to begin by the end of May, to supplement the U.S. government’s ongoing review and evaluation of this matter.
To submit a comment, please visit www.regulations.gov and enter one of the below docket numbers in the search field:
Q. The Departments say that review of the new material will begin towards the end of May. What do the three Departments intend to do with this material?
- We are asking for stakeholder input on this matter to supplement the information that we are already reviewing and considering. No decision has been made on potential next steps.
Q. When will the joint docket on www.regulations.gov close for submissions?
- This will be noted in the docket, but we do not expect to close the joint docket in the foreseeable future. We do, however, encourage submissions as soon as practicable, in order to promote a robust dialogue amongst stakeholders and provide the U.S. government sufficient time to evaluate the information.
Q. The release refers to the Administration’s Open Government Initiative. Does the open and transparent character of this forum mean that anyone can file anything?
- The Departments are not interested in limiting the scope of what the public may offer in terms of submissions. There is no specific evidentiary constraint or requests on what interested stakeholders may submit. Of course, we expect that the submissions will be relevant and we encourage thoughtful insights and analysis.
Q. I understand that the docket on the www.regulations.gov will be accessible to the public. What if I want to submit information that I do not wish to make public, such as business confidential information?
- While the preference is for written submissions to be made available to the public, the establishment of the joint docket is not intended to foreclose other means of communication with the three Departments and U.S. government officials. With respect to the dockets, however, no provision has been made for submission of confidential material to these dockets. The materials in the docket will not be edited to remove identifying or contact information, and the Departments caution against including any information in an electronic submission that one does not want publicly disclosed.
Q. How do I submit information that I believe to be confidential business information?
- With respect to information the submitter considers to be trade secrets, or commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential that may be exempt from disclosure to the public under exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4)), the Departments will appoint a separate contact to receive such information. Any person who seeks to submit such information will be asked to:
(1) File it in a sealed envelope marked “confidential treatment requested”;
(2) Provide an index listing the information or document sought to be withheld by an identifying number, including its title, description, and page numbers, and if relevant the specific location within a document; and
(3) Provide a statement explaining why the information falls under exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act – which encompasses “trade secrets and commercial or financial information [that is] privileged or confidential” – including an explanation of why the submitter does not customarily release the information to the public.