November 2, 2007
ASEAN : Aviation
Singapore PM urges ASEAN to liberalise aviation
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should take "bold steps" to achieve a single aviation market by 2015, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Thursday.
Countries which can move faster to open up their aviation sectors for competition should do so and let other states join in later, he said in a speech at the opening of an ASEAN transport ministers' meeting.
"Such bold steps will put ASEAN in a strong position to benefit from the rapid growth in travel demand around the region. It will also show the world that ASEAN can take decisive action to transform its plans into concrete outcomes," he said.
The target will coincide with ASEAN's plans to establish an economic community, characterised by free trade flows, by 2015.
Southeast Asian transport ministers have agreed that their respective national airlines will be free to fly between regional capital cities by the end of 2008 under an open-skies agreement.
This can be expanded at a later date to include other cites within the regional bloc.
"We have to quickly follow through on this, and meet the first milestone of freeing access between ASEAN capitals by December 2008 on time," Lee said.
But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Wednesday ASEAN still significantly lags Europe in deregulating the aviation sector despite moves to liberalise air travel.
IATA regional vice president Mike Barclay said a string of regulations obstructed carriers in the region and hampered the industry's growth.
"We don't see any relaxation of foreign ownership controls ... we don't see the opportunity for airlines to operate domestic sectors in another ASEAN country," Barclay said at an aviation conference in Singapore.
"So I think there is a long way to go."
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.