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On June 2, 2021, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations concluded the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA). These negotiations were first discussed in February 2014 during an ASEAN-EU aviation summit. It was in October 2016 that the rounds of negotiations began.
This agreement, which has received little coverage in the European daily press, marks a global turning point for the aviation sector and for airlines. It is the first agreement between these two trading blocks that provides for an “open sky” or “open air zone”. Commercial services between these two regions and cargo services between and beyond any country will be unlimited. Airlines will be able to offer up to 14 weekly passenger services.
In addition, such an agreement is a great opportunity for both regions to boost their economic activities, following the global pandemic.
The Chairman of the ASEAN Transport Ministers’ Meeting, Mr. Sun Chanthol, said: “ASEAN applauds this significant achievement. The Agreement would result in significant 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”.
ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Hoi added in a separate statement: “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.”
Finally, Ms. Adina Vãlean, European Commissioner for Transport, stated: “The conclusion of this first-ever ‘bloc-to-bloc’ air transport agreement marks an important milestone in the EU’s external aviation policy. […] I am grateful for the constructive approach of all parties involved, which made this historic deal possible.”
The formal signing of the CATA EA will take place at a later date, as the agreement is currently undergoing legal review.
This agreement could be a precursor to others and may be expanded rapidly.