The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) and its Member States have concluded the negotiations on the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA) at the Extraordinary ASEAN-EU Senior Transport Officials Meeting held virtually on June 2.

The AE CATA 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.

Rebuild air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe

The Agreement 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 minimize disruptions to air services caused by the pandemic.

The pace-setting Agreement reflects the latest policy thinking in air transport regulation, including robust fair competition provisions and doing business issues. More importantly, 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-South East 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-South East Asia Aviation Partnership Project (EU- SEA APP).

“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.”

Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Secretary-General of ASEAN

Meanwhile, Ms. 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.”

Mr. Sun Chanthol, Chair of the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting and Senior Minister and Minister of Public Works and Transport of Cambodia, said “ASEAN applauds this significant achievement. The Agreement would result in significantly greater connectivity between ASEAN and the EU, benefitting a population of 1.1 billion people and enabling greater business, trade, tourism and people-to-people links between both regions.”

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