The news out of Brussels earlier this month was encouraging. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena and his counterparts in the European Community are preparing to discuss multilateral deregulation of air freight.

Freight is a logical market to deregulate. For one thing, packages don't make return trips. And carriers don't throw a lot of excess capacity into the market, the way they do in the passenger lanes.International aviation treaties historically have been predicated on the principle that each nation in a bilateral relationship should receive market benefits commensurate with the percentage of the traffic it generates. But ''should receive" somehow gets translated into "must protect."

The concept of parity relies on the assumption that passengers eventually return to their starting point.

Many of the bilateral agreements the United States signed in the postwar years were heavily weighted to reflect the then-valid fact that this country provided most of the traffic.

As European economies - and those in other parts of the world - grew, European governments became increasingly aggressive in efforts to protect the interests of their flag carriers. Those interests were expressed as share of the market.

The fact that few European countries have more than one or, at the most, two international carriers contributed to bilateral problems.

U.S. carriers didn't like the idea of having to battle among themselves for only a piece of the pie. The entire market should be up for grabs, they believed. That U.S. airlines generally are more efficient than their European competitors obviously influenced that view.

Freight is another market altogether. Some airlines, particularly those in the United States, do not operate freighters at all, relying on belly-hold space to serve the market and to provide incremental revenues from already scheduled passenger operations.

And, because freight does not make round trips, carriers that do operate freighters have had to be careful not to put more capacity into the market than can be supported.

Northwest Airlines, the only U.S. passenger airline that also operates freighters, pulled its Boeing 747s off the Atlantic some years ago and redeployed them in the Pacific, where it could operate them profitably.

Deregulating cargo, particularly on a multilateral basis, offers little risk that traditional relationships will be disrupted.

It does offer the prospect that airlines will be able to provide market solutions to market situations without having to genuflect to the artificiality of government policies.


North Carolina still is trying to get its Global TransPark air cargo development off the ground, so to speak.

Business has not exactly flocked to the would-be facility at Kinston in the eastern part of the state.

Some observers thought the project quietly might be put to sleep after the 1992 election.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt succeeded Republican Jim Martin, who was not eligible to run for re-election. Mr. Martin had embraced the Trans- Park project and was an active supporter.

Gov. Hunt, however, comes from the eastern part of the state. Kinston is in the eastern part of the state, which arguably has a greater need for economic development than other parts of North Carolina.

In an effort to provide some level of support for Global TransPark, the state Legislature authorized a $5 a car local license fee in numerous counties, subject to local approval, the money to be used for infrastructure investment in and around the yet-to-be-developed airpark.

Calling it TransPork, authorities in New Hanover County declined to tax their motorists for the project. Wilmington, the county seat, is about 100 miles from Kinston and is unlikely to see any benefits if the proposed cargo- industrial complex is ever developed.

The state continues to use transportation to foster economic development, but high-tech companies have not rushed to take space at Kinston. State officials continue to seek federal funding from the Department of Transportation and the Pentagon for the Kinston facility.

The chancellor of the Wilmington campus of the University of North Carolina has said that even though an aircraft might never use the airport, construction of roads, sewers and water lines might attract other development to an area that needs it.

True enough, but that's a reason for focusing on economic development and not for pouring state or federal tax dollars into a facility that isn't needed.