Singaporean PM urges ASEAN to liberalize aviation 2007-11-01 15:52:57   Print

    SINGAPORE, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday called on the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take flexible approach and step out a full liberalization of air travel within the region.

    Speaking at the opening of the 13th ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting here, Lee urged the more developed ASEAN members to take the lead in transport integration by moving ahead first, while others can then join in later when they are ready.

    He said that the air transport sector "is a high-profile sector closely watched by others as a key indicator of ASEAN's resolve to pursue closer economic integration."

    The ASEAN transport ministers should step up discussions to achieve an ASEAN Single Aviation Market by 2015, as envisioned in the Economic Community blueprint, he said, adding "it necessary, those who are ready should move even faster, putting in place market- and consumer-friendly liberalization measures such as Open Skies Agreements."

    Such "bold steps" will put ASEAN in a strong position to benefit from the rapid growth in air travel around the region and it will also show the world that ASEAN can take decisive action to transform its plans into concrete outcomes, Lee said.

    The target will coincide with ASEAN's plans to establish an Economic Community, characterized by free trade flows, by 2015.

    The transport ministers have agreed that the ASEAN members' airlines will be free to fly between regional capitals by the end of 2008.

    Lee also said that the southeast Asian grouping should enhance transport links with its major partners in Asia.

    On the maritime front, Lee said that the road map for further development and integration of maritime transport will be adopted at the meeting.

    He also urged the transport ministers, as the next step, to setout clear intermediate milestones for liberalizing maritime transport services in the region.

    During the two-day meeting, the southeast Asian transport ministers are expected to endorse the adoption of several cooperative frameworks among ASEAN member countries, and between ASEAN and dialogue partners China and Japan.

    These include the ASEAN Maritime Transport Roadmap, which aims to promote the liberalization of maritime transport services in the region, the ASEAN-China Aviation Cooperation Framework, and the ASEAN-Japan Regional Roadmap for Aviation Security.

    The ministers will also discuss initiatives aimed to boost transport integration between ASEAN, China and Japan.

    The meeting will also elect the new chairperson and vice-chairperson for the 13th Transport Ministers' Meeting. Singapore's Transport Minister Raymond Lim is slated to take over the chairmanship from his Thai counterpart Admiral Thira Hao-Charoen.

    ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Editor: Song Shutao
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