NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As the big three U.S. airlines seek limits on the three subsidized Middle East carriers' aggressive expansion in the United States, they have encountered a powerful adversary with seemingly contradictory positions on subsidies for competitors.
FedEx (FDX), one of two members of the global oligopoly of overnight package deliverers, is a $46 billion (revenue) company that likes to play politics, particularly in support of reduced trade barriers and increased restrictions on labor unions.
Now it is playing both sides of the fence, supporting the subsidized Gulf carriers but opposing its own subsidized competitors.
FedEx backs the reduced trade barriers that are part of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-country free trade agreement, but it has expressed concerns regarding "the Japanese government's owning and operating one of the world's largest, most powerful and wealthiest state-owned enterprises: Japan Post," according to a 2012 letter from a FedEx attorney to a top official in the U.S. government's Office of the Special Representative for Trade Negotiations.
The problem, the letter said, is that government-subsidized Japan Post competes with private companies.
"In addition to its basic mail delivery services, Japan Post provides a large variety of delivery and financial services that compete directly with services offered by the private sector," the letter said. "Little or nothing has been done to ensure that Japan Post does not use profits and resources obtained from its monopoly and dominant market position to subsidize competitive services."
FedEx has previously raised concerns related to state-owned competition in Australia, Malaysia, Korea, China and Germany.
FedEx takes a somewhat different position, however, when it comes to passenger airlines subsidized by the governments of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest emirates.
A report compiled for American (AAL), Delta (DAL) and United (UAL) detailed how the four governments have provided about $39 billion in subsidies to Qatar Airways, the flag carrier of Qatar; and Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines, flag carriers of the UAE.