The Government is holding informal talks with officials from the United States Department of Transport in Washington this week in an attempt to break the deadlock over liberalising airspace. Deputy Secretary for the Economic Services Department Mary Chow Shuk-ching, who replaced Arthur Ho Kin-wah as the department's chief negotiator in December, is leading the SAR delegation. The delegation includes Principal Assistant Secretary Michael Wong Wai-lun, who is responsible for negotiations with the Americas and Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation countries outside China and Taiwan. The two sides are meeting over two days beginning yesterday. According to a spokesman at the US Consulate, the informal meetings will not include any industry participation. 'Issues are the expansion of cargo and passenger rights for carriers of both sides,' she said. However, Cathay Pacific Airways' general manager of international affairs Ivan Chu Kwok-leung and Andrew Pyne, manager of international affairs, are also in Washington to discuss the issue with officials. Michael Honold of the US Consulate in Hong Kong, is also expected to attend. Open-skies agreements are designed to eliminate restrictions on how often carriers can fly, the types of aircraft they use, the prices they charge and the routes flown between signatories. The two reached an impasse on a bilateral agreement during formal discussions in April. One obstacle was Hong Kong's wish to link any pact to the opening up of the US domestic market. According to a senior executive at one US carrier, the Hong Kong side may be willing to make concessions. 'My assumption is, if Hong Kong is over there they must have initiated it,' he said. The executive believed informal discussions could pave the way to an early agreement. 'Trouble is, if you set up a formal meeting and it collapses, then it will be another six months before they meet again,' he said.