China backs down on US flight restrictions after Trump retaliates


NEW YORK: China has backed down on a ban on flights by US airlines after President Donald Trump’s administration retaliated by threatening to block carriers from that country flying into America.

Beijing announced the decision on Thursday to allow American airlines to operate limited flights to the country on after Washington said it would bar Chinese airlines from flying into the US from June 16.

The airlines spat came amid rising tensions on many fronts, from health to diplomacy, between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies.

On Thursday, which was the 31st anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Trump fired another salvo at China accusing it of endangering US investors by refusing to have its companies listed in the US stock markets comply with US investor protection provisions.

“China’s efforts to thwart transparency requirements suggest significant risks even for investors in Chinese companies listed on US stock exchanges,” he said. He cited as an example Chinese government restrictions on auditors sharing information with the board overseeing them. Saying that “the time has come to take firm action”, Trump added that he was setting up a Working Group on Financial Markets to suggest remedies for ensuring Chinese companies listed in American companies complied with US norms.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed to stock exchanges around the world to follow the example of NASDAQ and tighten listing rules for Chinese companies. In an action directed against Chinese companies, NASDAQ announced last month that auditing firms would have to ensure all listed companies comply with international reporting and inspection standards.

As a face-saving measure to avoid giving the impression it was caving in to US pressure, China extended the new airline regulation to all foreign carriers. Beijing had said that only those airlines that were flying to China on March 12 could resume flights to that country starting June 8.

US airlines suspended flights to and from China soon after when Trump announced on January 31 ban on non-Americans entering the US from China because of the COVID-19 making them ineligible to resume flights.

But four Chinese airlines continued flying even if they had few passengers. Under the relaxation starting June 8, the US and other non-Chinese airlines will be allowed to run one flight per week to one Chinese city, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said.

If none of the passengers on the foreign airline flights tested positive for COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks, they would be allowed to have two flights. Only Delta has reportedly expressed interest in starting flights to China soon.

American Airlines said in an email that it planned to restart flights to Shanghai and Beijing only in October.

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