DPM Teo Chee Hean at the Opening of the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting 2017

SM Teo Chee Hean | 12 October 2017

Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the Opening of the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting 2017 on 12 October 2017 at Marina Bay Sands.


“Enhancing Connectivity and Integration for a More Prosperous ASEAN”

ASEAN Transport Ministers,
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning,

A warm welcome to Singapore. This year’s ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting is particularly significant, as we celebrate ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.

Celebrating ASEAN’s Achievements

Our meeting today reflects our shared commitment to enhance connectivity among our economies, and pursue greater integration for a more prosperous ASEAN. ASEAN is already a preferred location by many multinationals for sourcing and production within our ASEAN Free Trade Area and free trade agreements with Australia, China, India and New Zealand.1 This has in turn facilitated trade and investment, and boosted tourism.

We can look to the future with excitement. ASEAN is now a large market, with a population of over 620 million people. Our combined GDP is more than US$ 2.5 trillion, and ASEAN is projected to be the fourth largest economy by 20502.

Transport as an Enabler of Growth

The transport sector is the backbone and critical enabler of trade and tourism flows, powering ASEAN’s progress, economic development and people-to-people interactions. In fact, it is the integration of our transport sectors which has brought all of us together conveniently here to meet. Last year, ASEAN welcomed 116 million international visitors, of which almost half (43%) were from fellow ASEAN countries3. This also reflects the increased people-to-people flows that we have with increasing integration and mutual understanding of the people of ASEAN.

We can expect transport to play an even more important enabling role as trade and tourism flows intensify, driven by strong economic growth and a fast expanding middle class. To further enable ASEAN’s growth, we need to work towards our vision of an extensive, efficient and well-integrated ASEAN. This will open up new opportunities, improve market access by our companies, and enable freer flow of people, trade and commerce within and beyond ASEAN. And technology, as we were discussing this morning before we came into the meeting, is a very powerful enabler, allowing us to do these things more efficiently and more effectively.

Integrating the Transport Sector

We must sustain the momentum of transport cooperation and press on with our efforts to integrate the ASEAN transport sector at two levels – within ASEAN, and with our partners.

Integrating Efforts within ASEAN

First, let me speak on integrating the transport sector within ASEAN. We can enhance connectivity within the region, and promote more seamless cross-border movement of passengers and goods.

We have made good progress to strengthen air, sea and land links. Last year, members completed the ratification process for the ASEAN open skies agreement, a key milestone to enhance our air connectivity and deepen economic integration. We are also making efforts to establish new shipping routes4, and enhance the land transport network with initiatives such as the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link, and high-speed rail projects in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

ASEAN countries are taking further steps to implement the ASEAN Single Aviation and Shipping Markets, or in short, the “ASAM” and “ASSM”. The ASAM will integrate our aviation sectors in all aspects, including air services liberalisation and air traffic management. With growing air traffic, an integrated air traffic management plan will help achieve the Seamless ASEAN Sky vision to deliver harmonised and safe air traffic management operations across the region. This will greatly increase air traffic management efficiency and capacity in ASEAN, and allow ASEAN to meet the strong demand for air travel in the region. Together with the ASSM and efforts to liberalise air traffic rights, these initiatives will help establish new air and sea links, and promote the free movement of goods, services and people among ASEAN countries.

I am glad that ASEAN countries are also working on measures “behind the borders” to further integrate logistic chains and improve market access. For instance, common standards on the information required for port security clearance across member states will help reduce business costs for our companies. These are often not the most visible things but these matter a great deal to businesses as they facilitate the transportation of goods and lower the logistics costs throughout ASEAN. Our Ministers are taking another encouraging step tomorrow, with the signing of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles (or “CBTP”). The CBTP will simplify the requirements for cross-border bus transport services within ASEAN, and allow thousands of buses to enjoy facilitated entry and transit to other member states. I thank Ministers and all member states for your hard work. This sends a strong signal to the international community that ASEAN is committed to foster open, integrated economies and will further liberalise trade for the benefit of all our people.

Even as we finalise the CBTP, we should push ahead to operationalise the three existing ASEAN framework agreements on transport facilitation.5 These agreements will help to streamline and harmonise our customs and transit procedures, and create more opportunities for innovations in transport services using multiple transport modes. I am happy to announce that Singapore is ready to ratify Protocol 1 of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit, which will contribute to the ASEAN-wide inter-connected transport network for seamless trade.

Integrating Efforts with ASEAN’s Partners

Second, we should strengthen transport links with our key partners even as we work towards a more intra-connected ASEAN.

ASEAN is located at the heart of an economically vibrant and growing Asia, and increasing connections beyond ASEAN will allow our companies to tap on new growth opportunities with our key partners. The recently concluded Free Trade Agreement with Hong Kong, on-going negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and projects under China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” will enhance economic collaboration, and complement ASEAN’s efforts to enhance connectivity. For instance, we have built up a strong momentum with our negotiations to expand 5th air freedom rights with China.

ASEAN is also discussing with the European Union on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement. This will allow airlines from ASEAN and the EU to more effectively access the growing market for air travel within and between our two regions, which have a combined market of more than one billion people. I am confident that our Transport Ministers will work on concluding more liberal and mutually beneficial air service agreements between ASEAN and our Dialogue Partners, and further boost our air connectivity. There are many opportunities for the sharing of experiences among our ASEAN member countries on how technology is revolutionising the whole transport sector, from running our airports terminals, to the shipping and port management, and managing our land transport. There are many new opportunities to use new technologies to make better lives for our people and to integrate ASEAN even more closely together. These would continue to be topics of discussion among our ministers in the years to come.


To conclude, ASEAN remains well positioned to capture growth opportunities in the region and beyond. Transport development and integration, within ASEAN and with our partners, are critical enablers that will help ASEAN turn these opportunities into reality.
Singapore is committed to the ASEAN Economic Community vision of deepening regional economic integration. We look forward to working with other ASEAN Member States to build on the progress achieved, and advance our interests together during Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship in the coming year. We thank the Philippines for their dynamic and effective leadership this year.

I now declare the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting open. I wish you fruitful and productive discussions and to our overseas friends, a pleasant stay in Singapore. Thank you.


[1] "Understanding ASEAN’s Free Trade Agreements", 13 Feb 2014, ASEAN Briefing, http://www.aseanbriefing.com.

[2] IHS Global Market Insight, PwC estimates, “How will the world economic order change by 2050”, Feb 2017.

[3] "ASEAN ministers agree to boost cruise tourism", 20 Jan 2017, Channel NewsAsia.

[4] "New Shipping Route between Philippines and Indonesia for RoRo Service to Open in April", MI News Network, http://www.marineinsight.com.

[5] These refer to (i) the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit (AFAFGIT), (ii) the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Inter-State Transport (AFAFIST) and (iii) the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport (AFAMT). Together with the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles (CBTP), these are the four main agreements that ASEAN has established to enhance transport facilitation among member states.