ASEAN, EU conclude aviation agreement

First bloc-to-bloc deal should increase pax and cargo traffic between both regions

Cambodia was among one of the first countries to do away with quarantines and other COVID-related requirements in order to restart its tourism economy. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) have concluded the negotiations on the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA). The deal  is the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement and will bolster connectivity and economic development among the 37 member states of ASEAN and the EU. Under the agreement, airlines of ASEAN and the EU will have greater opportunities to operate passenger and cargo services between and beyond both regions. Airlines of ASEAN and the EU will be able to fly any number of services between both regions. In addition, airlines will be able to fly up to 14 weekly passenger services, and any number of cargo services via and beyond to any third country.

The deal will help rebuild air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe which has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and open up new growth opportunities for the aviation industry in both regions. Both parties expressed the intent to maintain close discussions and coordination to minimise disruptions to air services caused by the pandemic.

The AE CATA provides a foundation for closer cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in areas such as aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social matters. This deeper cooperation builds upon existing initiatives such as the Enhanced ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE Plus) programme on technical assistance and capacity building; the EU-Southeast Asia on Cooperation on Mitigating Climate Change impact from Civil Aviation: Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (EU-SEA CCCA CORSIA), which supports CORSIA implementation; and the EU-Southeast Asia Aviation Partnership Project (EU- SEA APP).

Lim Jock Hoi, the secretary general of ASEAN, said “With US$10.5 billion of foreign direct investment inflows and US$226.2 billion of trade in goods in 2020, the EU is already the third-largest source of investment and the third-largest trading partner for ASEAN. The AE CATA would significantly strengthen air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe and bring both regions even closer together. This would allow them to reap further economic benefits.”

Adina Vălean, the European commissioner for Transport, said: “The conclusion of this first-ever bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement marks an important milestone in the EU’s external aviation policy. It provides essential guarantees of fair competition for our European airlines and industry, while strengthening reciprocal prospects for trade and investment in some of the world’s most dynamic markets. Importantly, this new agreement also provides us with a solid platform to continue promoting high standards on safety, security, air traffic management, environment and social matters going forward. I am grateful for the constructive approach of all parties involved, which made this historic deal possible.”

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said the agreement “will help support economic development in both regions as we work towards recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to air services liberalisation, the (agreement) provides for cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in areas such as aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social issues.”

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