The 2nd Seminar on Transport Issues in North-East Asia took place online on 30 June ("Transport Sector: Cross-Sectoral Linkages towards Resilient Connectivity"). It was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Secretariat of the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI), in cooperation with the North-East Asia Business Association (NEBA), of which the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) is a founding member.
Ganbold Baasanjav, Head of the ESCAP East and North-East Asia Office, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the development of transport and other sectors of the global economy, leading to numerous disruptions in operational connectivity, including in the NEA [North-East Asia] region.
Andrey Smorodin, Director of the GTI Secretariat, stressed the importance of a stable, predictable, and open transport sector. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of international transport connectivity to global threats. Countries in East and North-East Asia need to step up joint efforts to overcome the consequences of the pandemic and to ensure the smooth operation of resilient transport chains.
This can be achieved through transport facilitation, through the development and modernisation of transport infrastructure, and also through closer coordination between agencies, both within each country and internationally.
Myeongso Eo, Director General of the Comprehensive Transport Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Republic of Korea, noted the challenges of transport interconnectivity in the NEA. These challenges can only be addressed through the combined efforts of all partners.
ESCAP Consultant, Varvara Krechetova, highlighted trade and transport facilitation measures in the region. There are a number of customs mutual assistance and cooperation agreements between NEA countries.
She spoke about the GTI Mutual Recognition Arrangement of Authorised Economic Operators (not yet in force) and the INTERTRAN project, which provides for effective digital interaction between railways, seaports and inspection authorities, and creates incentives for increasing the level of containerisation of domestic and foreign trade freight flows.
Russian Railways, together with its partners, plan to extend this universal intermodal transport information technology to all international transport corridors.
The project has been supported by ESCAP and the Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly of the International Union of Railways.
Varvara Krechetova also said that the NEAL-NET [North-East Asia Logistics Information Service Network] regional framework was launched in 2010 at the China-Japan-Korea Ministerial Conference on Transport and Logistics. It is a transnational, non-commercial mechanism for logistic interaction and data exchange on real-time vessel traffic, real-time container traffic, the status and capacity of port infrastructure and port information.
The representative of the ESCAP Transport Division, Fedor Kormilitsyn, made a presentation on "Harmonization of Legal Frameworks for Multimodal Transport in Asia and the Pacific". Expert consultations are taking place in relation to this project, which is being implemented by ESCAP, and a forum is planned for autumn 2021. He also reported that ESCAP had prepared a study on Asia-Europe transport connectivity, which analysed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international transport.
ESCAP representative, Sandeep Jain, spoke about the organisation's initiatives to develop railway transport in the region. The ESCAP-developed "Trans-Asian Railway Network" project, involving 21 countries, has been formalised through an intergovernmental agreement that came into force in 2009.
Most of the rail network already exists, although some obstacles remain, such as the different track gauges in Europe, India, China and South-East Asia. The project does not envisage gauge conversion, but rather the construction of mechanised facilities to move shipping containers from train to train at the breaks of gauge.
Keiko Koyoma from the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, an international organisation bringing together China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, spoke about transport cooperation in this area.
Following the 7th China-Japan-Korea Ministerial Conference on Transport and Logistics in 2018, the parties agreed to establish an environmentally friendly logistics system, and also to achieve an optimal balance between logistics security and efficiency.
Sergey Mikhnevich, Managing Director of the RSPP International Multilateral Cooperation and Integration Directorate, stressed that no country will succeed in developing its transport industry on its own without taking into account international aspects and removing bottlenecks.
The business community believes that creating a favourable and stable business environment and access to cooperation and project implementation mechanisms, which also concerns institutional capacity building, resource endowment and information exchange on existing cooperation opportunities and challenges, are of particular importance. All this requires effective dialogue and coordination of joint actions of all stakeholders, including national and international authorities, business and society, in order to overcome the crisis and create conditions for sustainable and progressive development.
Sergey Mikhnevich outlined a number of priority areas that are reflected in "high-level documents", such as the draft transport strategy of the Russian Federation through to 2035, as well as the Strategic Directions for Developing Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025, and which play an important role in promoting business cooperation in the region and achieving sustainable transport interconnectivity:
- development of multimodal transport and cross-border infrastructure to address bottlenecks and increase capacity of transport routes;
- harmonisation of regulations and enforcement practices, including implementation of an interoperable and integrated "Single Window" and electronic data exchange mechanism, ensuring smooth, paperless and sustainable cooperation;
- increasing the number and volume of financial instruments for investment and operations;
- exchange of information and establishment of a single interoperable database;
- coordination of strategies and actions to implement them, taking into account possible spillover effects on other sectors of the economy.
Sergey Mikhnevich also spoke about Russian business activities promoting transport interconnectivity, citing the practices of Russian Railways and the Eurasian Railway Alliance United Transport and Logistics Company. In his view, cooperation would be boosted by developing a Blue Book of transport interconnectivity, not only for the GTI or Asia-Pacific regions, but also for the Greater Eurasia macro-region. The document could address different aspects of regulation, the current state of cooperation, key goals and objectives of its development, existing challenges and opportunities, and resources.
Also, close cooperation between the North-East Asia Business Association, North-East Asia EXIM Banks Association, ESCAP Sustainable Business Network, APEC and ASEAN Business Advisory Councils could be used to form an inventory of projects, and to work effectively with the authorities to implement them.
The seminar programme, speakers' presentations and a video of the broadcast are available here: https://www.unescap.org/events/2021/2nd-escap-gti-seminar-transport-issues-north-east-asia#