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Asean steps up efforts on seamless sea and sky

Member states to also ink cross-border bus pact to further liberalise region's transport

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From left: Setia Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat (Brunei), Hiroshi Narahira (Japan), Arkhom Termpittayapaisith (Thailand), Liow Tiong Lai (Malaysia), Lim Hong Hin (Asean), Khaw Boon Wan (Singapore), Sun Chanthol (Cambodia), Arthur Tugade (Philippines), U Thant Sin Maung (Myanmar), Bounchanh Sinthavong (Laos), Budi Karya Sumadi (Indonesia), Le Dinh Tho (Vietnam) and Dai Dongchang (China).

Singapore

THE 23rd Asean Transport Ministers Meeting (ATM) kicked off in Singapore on Thursday morning, with leaders pledging further efforts to integrate the region's air, ship and land borders.

On Friday, the ministers will sign several agreements to further liberalise air services. They will also ink a pact to facilitate entry and transit to other member states by thousands of buses, such as tour buses. The Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles (CBTP) will simplify the requirements for cross-border bus transport services within Asean.

Speaking at the opening, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "To further enable Asean's growth, we need to work towards our vision of an extensive, efficient and well-integrated Asean. This will open up new opportunities, improve market access by our companies, and enable freer flow of people, trade and commerce within and beyond Asean."

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To press on with efforts to integrate the Asean transport sector within the region, connectivity needs to be enhanced and there has to be more seamless cross-border movements of passengers and goods, Mr Teo said.

The ten Asean members states are also taking further steps towards creating the Asean Single Aviation Market (ASAM) and Asean Single Shipping Market (ASSM).

Last year, members states already completed the ratification process for the Asean open skies agreement; in addition, plans are in the works to establish new shipping routes and enhance the land transport network with initiatives such as the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link as well as high-speed rail projects in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mr Teo went on to say: "With growing air traffic, an integrated air traffic management plan will help achieve the Seamless Asean Sky vision to deliver harmonised and safe air traffic management operations across the region. This will greatly increase air traffic management efficiency and capacity in Asean, and allow Asean to meet the strong demand for air travel in the region."

"Together with the ASSM and efforts to liberalise air traffic rights, these initiatives will help establish new air and sea links, and promote the free movement of goods, services and people among Asean countries."

With a population of over 620 million, Asean has a combined GDP of more than US$ 2.5 trillion and is projected to be the fourth largest economy by 2050. Last year, the region received some 116 million international visitors, of which 43 per cent were from Asean countries.

Urging member nations to push ahead with operationalising three existing pacts on transport facilitation, Mr Teo also announced that Singapore is ready to ratify the first protocol of the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit, which will contribute to seamless trade. The three agreements are the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit, the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Inter-State Transport and the Asean Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport.

Even as the region works towards a more intra-connected Asean, Mr Teo stressed the need to strengthen transport links with key partners outside the region.

For instance, Asean is also in talks with the European Union on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which will enable airlines from the two regions to have greater access to the burgeoning market for air travel between Asean and the EU.

The transport ministers' meeting - which takes place against the backdrop of Asean's 50th anniversary - involves about 200 delegates from the 10 Asean member states and three dialogue partners, China, Japan and South Korea. Singapore last hosted the meeting in 2007.

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