ASEAN, EU Ink World’s First Region-to-Region Air Transport Deal

Date Published
November 11, 2022

ASEAN and EU have a 1.1-billion market that stands to benefit from the deal. Photo credit: ADB

Consumers can look forward to a greater variety of destinations, more flight frequencies and travel options, and better cargo services between Southeast Asia and Europe after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) signed the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement.

ASEAN and EU have a 1.1-billion market that stands to benefit from the deal. The pact replaces more than 140 bilateral air services agreements, thereby providing a single set of rules and reducing red tape.

Under the open skies deal, airlines from the 10 Southeast Asian countries and 27 European countries can fly any number of services between the regions. In addition, airlines of each country of one bloc will also be able to fly up to 14 weekly passenger services and any number of cargo services to each country of the other bloc with 5th freedom traffic rights, via any third country or beyond to any third country.

Boosting tourism recovery

ASEAN and EU signed the deal as they try to bolster tourism, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement will provide greater opportunities for their airlines and help boost air connectivity between the two regions following the pandemic.

In a joint statement, ASEAN and EU said the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) was signed at the 28th ASEAN Transport Ministers’ Meeting on 17 October 2022, in Bali, Indonesia. Negotiations on the agreement started in 2016 and concluded on 2 June 2021 at the Extraordinary ASEAN–EU Senior Transport Officials Meeting. The agreement will now undergo ratification in accordance with the procedures of ASEAN and EU member states.

“I believe that the ASEAN–EU CATA will strengthen air transport services, connecting people, cultures, and businesses across continents, as well as supporting the sustainable growth of aviation. The ASEAN–EU CATA emerges at an opportune time as ASEAN and the EU celebrate our 45 years of partnership,” said ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi.

New level of aviation partnership

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean also welcomed the deal. “The signature of this first-ever region-to-region air transport agreement between the EU and ASEAN brings our aviation partnership to a new level. The agreement will help to support the aviation sector’s recovery post-COVID-19, and restore much-needed connectivity between our two regions, to the benefit of some 1.1 billion people, by enabling greater business, trade, tourism and people-to-people exchanges.” She added that it provides the two regions a new platform to work jointly toward a shared commitment to foster an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable aviation.

The CATA provides a foundation for closer cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in such areas as aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social matters. It builds upon existing initiatives, including the Enhanced ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU program on technical assistance and capacity building, the EU–South East Asia Cooperation on Mitigating Climate Change Impact from Civil Aviation: Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, and the EU–Southeast Asia Aviation Partnership Project.

Indonesia’s Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, who chaired the 28th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting, said: “The signing of this agreement will create more harmonious synergies to accelerate economic recovery, especially air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe, and will reinvigorate the global economy, in particular in the ASEAN and EU regions.”

Czech Republic’s Transport Minister Martin Kupka said: “By signing off the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement, we took an important step in bolstering connectivity between Europe and the ASEAN. This will provide greater opportunities to EU and ASEAN airlines to operate passenger and cargo services between and beyond both regions. This will not only boost aviation industry both in Europe and Asia, but also our economies during the economic recovery.” The Czech Republic currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU.

Singapore’s Transport Minister and Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran said the deal comes at an opportune time to open up new growth opportunities for the aviation industry in both regions in the wake of the pandemic.