Although ASEAN member states have already ratified several transportation framework agreements to boost cross-border transport and transit between member nations, the region has yet to take full advantages of the implementation of those agreements.
Four transportation agreements have been established and signed in ASEAN to facilitate cross-border transports and transit.
They are framework agreements on the facilitation of goods and transit, inter-states transport, multi-modal transport and passenger transport by road vehicle.
“So far, three framework agreements have been ratified, with the exception of the agreement on the facilitation of passenger transport by road vehicle,” said Kong Sophal, deputy director general of the General Department of Land Transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
“At present, we are preparing to implement these agreements. However, that implementation has been delayed by COVID-19. We have seen some transactions in the exchange of goods among the ASEAN countries, but the spread of COVID-19 has meant that the implementation of the agreement has been conducted slowly. We are pushing [the ASEAN member states] to implement the agreement,” Sophal added.
He said that what makes an agreement on the facilitation of goods and transit difficult to implement, especially for Cambodia and Lao PDR, is that the trucks which carry cargo generally are not modern. Sophal added this makes transit to other countries in the region difficult. In addition, the private sector is not interested in upgrading fleets to facilitate transport to anything but a neighbouring country where there is a significant amount of bilateral trade.
Within the framework agreement on the facilitation of goods and transit, Cambodia and Thailand agreed on having 150 trucks per nation to facilitate bilateral cross-border transport, but Cambodia has only 50 trucks in service while Thailand has reached the 150 truck target. Cambodia and Vietnam provide for 500 trucks, while Cambodia-Lao PDR have only managed 4 trucks among the 40 trucks agreed to.
He added that for the agreement on the facilitation of passenger transport by road vehicle, each country is considering the benefits of this agreement individually and that this process takes time.
Sin Chanthy, president of the Cambodia Logistics Association, said that all agreements on the facilitation of goods and transit for cross-border transport in ASEAN and the Greater Mekong sub-region are in place, but the implementation has not be done in general despite the demand for transporting cargo from Thailand through Cambodia to Vietnam and China.
Chanthy noted that there are some issues related to customs procedure that cannot be implemented yet and will need more study, but that cross-border transport between Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam is running smoothly.
At the 40th ASEAN Transport Facilitation Working Group meeting last week, which Cambodia chaired, the focus was on the current status of cross-border transport between countries in the region, the restoration of regional transportation of ASEAN member states, reviewing the recommendations and follow-up activities of the previous meeting and the status of ratification of the ASEAN Transport Facilitation Agreement as well as the establishment and implementation of relevant procedures in that particular agreement.
The meeting also discussed reports on issues including customs, insurance, truck’s transport permits, ASEAN’s cross-border transport monitoring system, the development of a legal framework to support multimodal transport and the strengthening of coordination with sub-initiatives.
According to reports from member nations, the transit of goods in each region is being studied further to find an emergency solution to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.