One of the key purposes of transport connectivity is to support international trade. However, despite the significant progress observed in Asia and the Pacific in recent years, further efforts are needed to maximize the connectivity benefits and improve the region’s position in the regional and global supply chains.
Overall, transport connectivity remains uneven across the region, with a widening gap between high-performing countries and those that are lagging behind, often countries with special needs. Costs and delays in the movement of goods are driven up by missing links and inadequate infrastructure quality in the regional transport network and exacerbated by factors including divergent technical standards, insufficient use of electronic information exchange and lack of liberalization of transport services. Progress in intermodal integration is hampered by the lack of coordinated policies that target infrastructure, transport and logistics.
Enhancing connectivity along the regional land transport networks, reducing connectivity gaps for countries with special needs and better linking the region to global supply chains are essential for sustainable development. Most of these aspects, linked to the supply chain approach to transport connectivity, are reflected in the work of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The infrastructure connectivity work carried out under regional infrastructure agreements on the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, as well as Dry Ports. This work goes hand in hand with efforts to increase operational connectivity by means of transport facilitation, greater use of technologies, and private-public dialogue and capacity-building on logistics efficiency.
In addition, a priority is given to enhancing inter-regional connectivity between Asia and Europe, which supports greater economic integration, more efficient resource allocation and further growth of mutually beneficial international trade on the Eurasian continent. In the past three decades many initiatives have been launched to improve Asia-Europe transport connectivity. In support of these development, ESCAP is implementing various analytical and capacity building activities, including regular expert and policy exchanges on sustainable transport connectivity between Asia and Europe, to support cooperation and coordination of efforts for relevant policymakers and transport stakeholders in both regions.
Another key area of work is promoting sustainable maritime connectivity. As more than 80 per cent of global trade volume is shipped by sea, countries’ participation in the international supply chains depends on their maritime connectivity, i.e. availability of reliable and efficient shipping services. Countries with low connectivity remain on the margins of the major trading routes, unable to fully participate in global economy. Maritime connectivity challenges in Asia Pacific, including lower maritime connectivity of the Pacific countries, and policy directions to overcome these challenges were highlighted in ESCAP Resolution 76/1, which made sustainable maritime connectivity as one of areas of the systematic regional dialogue on transport connectivity.