SINGAPORE: An agreement will be signed on Friday (Oct 13) between the member countries of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) to make it easier for buses to move within the region, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said.
Speaking at the opening of the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting – an annual meeting for ASEAN transport ministers to iron out transport cooperation initiatives, Mr Teo said the agreement will "simplify the requirements for cross-border bus transport services" within the region.
It will also allow thousands of buses to enjoy facilitated entry and transit to other member states, he added.
Called the ASEAN Framework Agreement for the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles (CBTP), the pact sends a "strong signal" to the international community that the region is committed to foster open, integrated economies and will further liberalise trade, Mr Teo said.
Several agreements that will liberalise the region’s air services, as well as improve the safety and efficiency of air travel in the region and beyond, are also expected to be signed and adopted during the meeting in Singapore, said the Ministry of Transport in a media release.
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In his speech, Mr Teo also urged Southeast Asian nations to press on with cooperation and integration efforts in transport, describing the transport sector as the “backbone” and “critical enabler” of trade and tourism flows.
He noted that this role will become increasingly vital.
“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.”
To do so, Mr Teo stressed that cooperation and integration of the region’s transport sector must continue within ASEAN and with its partners.
He noted that there has been “good progress” in strengthening the region’s air, sea and land links. For instance, the ratification process for the ASEAN open skies agreement was completed last year while initiatives like the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link reflect efforts to enhance the land transport network.
Further steps have also been taken to implement the ASEAN Single Aviation and Shipping Markets. The former will integrate the region’s aviation sectors in all aspects, including air services liberalisation and air traffic management.
“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,” Mr Teo said.
These initiatives will establish new air and sea links that will help to promote the free movement of goods, services and people among ASEAN countries, he added.
At the same time, Singapore is also ready to ratify Protocol 1 of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit, Mr Teo said.
When it comes to strengthening transport links with key partners beyond the region, Mr Teo cited ongoing efforts such as the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
A Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement with the European Union is also in the works. If successful, it will allow airlines from ASEAN and the EU to more effectively access the growing market for air travel within and between the two regions, he said.
“ASEAN is located at the heart of an economically vibrant and growing Asia, and increasing connections beyond ASEAN will allow our companies to tap on new growth opportunities with our key partners.
“To conclude, ASEAN remains well-positioned to capture growth opportunities in the region and beyond the region. Transport development and integration, within ASEAN and with our partners, are critical enablers that will help ASEAN turn these opportunities into reality,” Mr Teo said.
Held from Oct 12 to 13, the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting and associated meetings with dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea take place against the backdrop of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.
Singapore last hosted the meeting as well as the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting in 2007.