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SOUTH-EAST Asian nations will sign a pact on cross-border bus services and take further steps to integrate the regional air and shipping markets over the next few days, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Thursday at the opening of the 23rd Asean Transport Ministers meeting in Singapore.
On Friday, ministers from the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) will sign the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles, or CBTP.
This agreement will "simplify the requirements for cross-border bus transport services within Asean , and allow thousands of buses to enjoy facilitated entry and transit to other member states", Mr Teo said.
Asean countries are also taking further steps to implement the Asean Single Aviation and Shipping Markets. This will increase air traffic management efficiency and allow Asean to meet the strong demand for air travel in the region, he added.
Urging member nations to operationalise three existing pacts on transport facilitation, Mr Teo announced that Singapore is ready to ratify the first protocol of the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit.
Mr Teo also highlighted the importance of strengthening transport links with other key partners. He noted that Asean is currently in discussions with the European Union on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, which will allow airlines from Asean and the EU to more effectively access the growing market for air travel between the two regions with a combined market of more than one billion people.
The minister laid out that agenda as he described transport as an enabler for growth in the region and reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to the Asean Economic Community.
"We can expect transport to play an even more important enabling role as trade and tourism flows intensify, driven by strong economic growth and a fast expanding middle class," he said.
"To further enable Asean's growth, we need to work towards our vision of an extensive, efficient and well-integrated Asean."
The 23rd annual Asean Transport Ministers Meeting and associated meetings with dialogue partners China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are the highlight of discussions that began on Oct 9. They involved about 200 delegates from the 10 Asean member states and the three dialogue partner countries.
Singapore last hosted the meeting in 2007.