MIAMI – In a move that deeply changes aspects of air traffic between Asia and Europe, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the EU Commission have concluded a world-first block-to-block commercial aviation agreement.

According to the announcement published by ASEAN, the pact known as “Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA)”, once formalized by the ten ASEAN and the 27 EU countries, will allow the 37 participating states to perform any number of passenger and cargo services between and beyond both regions.

The AE CATA also includes the possibility to operate up to 14 passenger flights and an unlimited number of cargo services, via and beyond ASEAN countries, to any third country.”

Tails at Singapore-Changi Airport – Photo : Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rebuilding Air Connections Post-crisis

The aim of AE CATA is to concur to the rebuilding of air connections, badly hit by the pandemic crisis, between ASEAN and EU countries. At the same time, it will help establish growth opportunities for the air transport industry both in Europe and Asia and foster coordination to avoid pandemic-driven flight services disruption.

Fair competition rules, and air regulation rules, based on the latest policies, have not been forgotten by the AE CATA which includes provisions on how business issues are resolved. It also extends the existing ARISE (ASEAN Regional Integration Support from EU) cooperation program in the fields of aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social matters as well as technical assistance and capacity building.

Other fields of enhanced cooperations are those of miitigating climate change inpact, carbon offsetting, and EU ASEAN aviation partnership.

Frankurt Airport – Photo : Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Comments from Officials

AE CATA by Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, said, “with US$10.5bn of Foreign Direct Investment inflows and US$226.2bn 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 EU Commissioner for Transport concurred by stating, “The conclusion of this first-ever block-to-block 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.”

Air France A350-900 F-HTYB – Photo : Brad Tisdel/Airways

She also added “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.”

As a conclusion, 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.”

Featured image: Thai Airways Boeing 777-300 HS-TKZ. Photo: Milan Witham/Airways