Transport Policies Must Be Open-Minded for Trade to Benefit, Says EC Commissioner for Transport (16/02/2012)

SINGAPORE, 16 February 2012 – Transport policies must be liberal and open-minded if bilateral or inter-regional trade is going to benefit, says the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, Mr Siim Kallas. 
 
Addressing a public audience here yesterday, he praised Singapore's current aviation policies for flying the industry to its heights and turning the island-state into a hub for Asian aviation. 
 
Beyond these achievements, Mr Kallas said, there is scope for more cooperation and trade. "Like-mindedness yields results. It is important that both Europe and Singapore see trade and investment as a key element in the global economic recovery. Our two regions can only benefit from improving and expanding transport ties," he reminded.
 
Bilaterally, Singapore is the EU's largest trading partner within ASEAN and both countries are working on an EU-Singapore free trade agreement. Inter-regionally, ASEAN countries are the EU's third largest export market outside of Europe, with a total bilateral trade of some €160 billion (about S$265 billion), and the EU is by far the largest investor in ASEAN countries. The EU is also the world's most important exporter and the second largest importer.
 
Mr Kallas acknowledged some challenges in the transport industry, but also suggested some solutions to overcome them. He said there are needs to tackle overdependence on oil; meet ambitious targets on climate change; fill the important missing network links; and eliminate bottlenecks, heavy administrative processes and technical incompatibilities. 
 
To rise over these challenges, Mr Kallas called for more investments to expand and modernise the transport infrastructure; and more emphasis on research and innovation to develop reliable and clean alternative fuels. He is also optimistic that a single European transport area by 2050 will see EU partner countries benefit from reduced and streamlined regulation; as well as easier and improved market access to Europe's more than 500 million people-strong market.
 
"Many EU companies have been quick to capitalise on Singapore's strategic importance in Southeast Asia, including as a hub to service the wider Pacific rim," he observed. "In turn, Singapore has recognised the quality of products made in Europe." He pointed out French companies Thales which was selected in 2008 to equip Singapore with a new air traffic control system, and Alstom which was recently awarded contracts to enhance Singapore's rail capacity with new trains.
 
Mr Kallas was delivering a lecture titled "Europe and Southeast Asia: Transport Partners for the Way Ahead" at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the end of his three-day visit to Singapore. His visit was by the Ministry’s Distinguished Visitors’ Programme, where key international transport leaders and eminent personalities are invited to visit Singapore. The visit was also in conjunction with the annual Singapore Airshow and Aviation Leadership Summit 2012. 
 
Earlier at the Summit, Mr Kallas and the Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Lui Tuck Yew held a bilateral meeting ahead of their signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the EC and Singapore on co-operation on intelligent transport systems. Mr Kallas also witnessed the signing of other agreements on co-operation in the aviation sector between the EC and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) - an MOU with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on aviation safety co-operation, and a Letter of Intent with the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management (ATM) Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) to explore ways to co-operate on air traffic management issues.

Mr Kallas's visit to Singapore was all-encompassing and covered various transport facilities, including the Maritime and Port Authority's port operations control centre, and Port of Singapore Authority's container terminal. The maritime sector accounts for the bulk of trading between Europe and Asia. He also visited Land Transport Authority's operations centre and public land transport operator SMRT Corporation's train depot.