DPM Teo urges Asean to enhance physical transport links and logistics
SINGAPORE — The transport sector is key to enhancing trade and tourism in the region, and the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) should enhance connectivity between member countries to drive growth.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who made the call at the opening of the Asean Transport Ministers Meeting on Thursday (Oct 12), characterised the transport sector as the “backbone and critical enabler” of trade and tourism flows in the region.
“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 more than 200 delegates.
He noted that Asean has been moving on several fronts to integrate the transport sector.
On Friday, Asean transport ministers will sign a framework agreement to facilitate the movement of buses across borders.
“This (agreement) sends a strong signal to the international community that Asean is committed to foster open, integrated economies and will further liberalise trade for the benefit of all our people,” said Mr Teo.
In terms of strengthening air, sea and land links, the grouping ratified an open skies agreement last year, while efforts are underway to establish new shipping routes and enhance land transport networks - such as the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link as well as high speed rail projects in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, he said.
Member states are also working on implementing an Asean single aviation and shipping markets, he added.
He also urged Asean to push ahead and operationalise several other agreements on transport facilitation, including those related to goods in transit, the movement of goods between member states as well as logistics across different modes of transport.
“These agreements will help to streamline and harmonise our customs and transit procedures, and create more opportunities for innovations in transport services using multiple transport modes,” said the deputy prime minister, adding that the Republic is ready to ratify an Asean protocol on the facilitation of goods in transit.
He said that to further enable Asean’s growth, the member states need to work towards their vision of an extensive, efficient and well-integrated region.
“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.”
One common theme in these discussions on transport integration, said the deputy prime minister, is on how technology is revolutionising the sector. He said that there are many opportunities for Asean member states to share their experiences in this area.
“From the way we run our airport terminals, to shipping port management, integrating all of them together, managing how land transport – cars, autonomous vehicles, and so on... I think (these) will be continuing topics of discussion among our ministers in the years to come,” he said.
Looking beyond the region, he said that Asean should strengthen transport links with key partners.
The recently concluded free trade agreement with Hong Kong, on-going negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative will “enhance economic collaboration, and complement Asean’s efforts to enhance connectivity”, he said.
Turning to ongoing discussions between Asean and the European Union (EU) on a comprehensive air transport agreement, he said: “This will allow airlines from Asean and the EU to more effectively access the growing market for air travel within and between our two regions, which have a combined market of more than one billion people”.
He stressed that Asean is well positioned to capture growth opportunities in the region and beyond.
“Transport development and integration, within Asean and with our partners, are critical enablers that will turn help Asean turn these opportunities into reality,” Mr Teo said.
“We look forward to working with other Asean member states to build on the progress achieved, and advance our interests together during Singapore’s Asean Chairmanship in the coming year.”