Singapore and US to deepen transport cooperation, work to revive air travel

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung and US counterpart Pete Buttigieg held an introductory virtual meeting on April 8, 2021.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung and US counterpart Pete Buttigieg held an introductory virtual meeting on April 8, 2021.PHOTOS: KHALID BABA, AFP

SINGAPORE - Singapore and the United States will deepen bilateral cooperation in the transport sector, working together in areas such as reviving international air travel in a safe manner amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two countries will also strengthen cooperation in multilateral organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Ministry of Transport and the US Department of Transport said in a joint statement on Friday (April 9).

The statement, which followed an introductory virtual meeting between Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung and his US counterpart Pete Buttigieg on Thursday, said the countries will build on the excellent cooperation established over the years by agencies and officials on both sides, including in areas such as the exchange of best practices on urban transport systems.

In a Facebook post on Friday morning, Mr Ong said he had a fruitful discussion with Mr Buttigieg despite the 12-hour time difference between Singapore and the US. It was 8pm in Singapore and 8am in Washington when they met virtually.

"Secretary Buttigieg and I are in full agreement on the need to safely restore international air travel and to strengthen our collaboration on climate action and sustainability, including at the International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Maritime Organisation (IMO)," said Mr Ong.

The statement also reaffirmed that both countries are parties to the Paris Agreement - a 2016 international agreement on climate change action, which former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2017.

The US re-entered the agreement hours after President Joe Biden's inauguration, with former secretary of state John Kerry - who helped broker the Paris Agreement - appointed as climate envoy.

Areas of possible collaboration on climate action in transportation that the two countries are exploring include alternative fuels, electrification, market-based measures and technological advancement.

Singapore and the US can work together on advancing the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels and other clean technologies; identifying new climate-related innovations such as electric vehicles and related infrastructure; and exploring climate-friendly practices in urban transport planning, including reducing unnecessary trips and encouraging low-emission options such as cycling, said the statement.

Both sides also intend to strengthen cooperation at the ICAO and the IMO to keep aviation and maritime transport open, efficient, reliable, safe, sustainable and resilient.

This would include actions like pushing for the decarbonisation of the aviation sector, and reducing emissions from ships.

"We will continue our engagement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (Apec), specifically through the Transportation Working Group and Transport Ministers' Meetings, supporting the goals of the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040," the statement added.

Travel between the US and Singapore has yet to fully reopen.

Singapore has said that it will accept the International Air Transport Association's travel pass from May 1 where passengers will be able to share their pre-departure Covid-19 test results with their airline, while the US is still weighing its options on that front. There are no restrictions on passengers flying to the US from Singapore, aside from on-arrival testing and self-quarantine.

However, only those holding permanent residency or other forms of long-term passes are allowed to fly to Singapore from the US.