Aviation's role in Asia-Pacific is critical to the region's social and economic development. The industry enables over $705 billion of GDP, provides employment to over 33 million people and enables global mobility to 1.5 billion passengers who fly to, from or within the region. The region's airlines carry more than 14 million tonnes of air cargo internationally each year.
Today, Asia-Pacific's airlines carry about a third of all passengers and about 40% of the world's air cargo. Those are impressive figures. And I believe that there is still enormous potential to be realized.
This conference recognizes one of the most critical elements in unlocking aviation's potential—cooperation. Global standards are the product of cooperation among states and with the industry. And they are the foundation of aviation's success—facilitating the safe, efficient and sustainable air connectivity that underpins the globalized world in which we live.
IATA is grateful for the invitation to join you for these important discussions and the opportunity to share some high level thoughts on how aviation can contribute even more to the development of this region.
Safety is our top priority. As a result flying is the safest form of long-distance travel. Every day, approximately 100,000 flights take to the sky and land without incident. And we—industry and governments—share a commitment to making flying ever safer.
I would like to congratulate the CAAC's leadership for the 88 months of safe aircraft operations. In fact, the strong cooperation between governments and the aviation industry is to be commended for the exceptional safety performance of 2017 and the continuous improvement in the years before that. Of course, no matter how good the year, we always strive to do better.
The excellent work that governments and industry do together on safety should inspire cooperation—among states and with the industry—in other areas that are critical to aviation's success.
Infrastructure efficiency is a good example. It is a government responsibility to provide the infrastructure to enable a country's growth.
Traffic in Asia-Pacific is currently growing by about 10% a year. That puts enormous pressure on the infrastructure on the ground and in the air. Many of the region's governments—including our host China—have made enormous infrastructure investments. The Belt and Road initiative by China is a great example of the massive scale of some of the developments that are taking place.
In Asia-Pacific, we see leading examples of airports and air navigation investments that meet our needs of sufficient capacity, technical capabilities aligned with airline needs and affordable costs. We also see gaps—even at airports serving some of the region's capital cities. And we are encouraging the governments involved to bring their infrastructure into the modern era as quickly as possible so that their economies and people can fully benefit from the value of efficient air transport links.
IATA is also sounding the alarm when governments turn to the private sector to fund airport infrastructure. It is not a new concept. And in IATA's long experience we have not seen privatized airports deliver long-term results aligned with the promised benefits—particularly on costs. We must work together to find a regulatory regime for privatized airports that better balances public and private interests.
Less visible, but equally important, is the efficiency of air traffic management. And as aircraft may fly through many countries on any given route, the efficiency challenge is becoming more difficult with the need for "linked up" planning and cooperation among states.
The Asia-Pacific Seamless Air Traffic Management Plan is the region's flagship program leading to improvements. Significant inefficiencies, however, remain. And I must report that progress is not keeping pace with the growing demand.
We need a coordinated effort among the region's states to speed up harmonization, implement cross border flow management, improve the quality of aeronautical information and enhance the level of military/civilian cooperation. The industry will fully support governments in these efforts.
Lastly, I would like to thank you once again for the opportunity to participate in these discussions. Aviation is a highly regulated industry. And airlines fully respect the important role that governments play as our regulators. We are also partners with a common goal of providing safe, efficient and sustainable air links. That partnership grows stronger with mutual understanding. And I firmly believe that exchanges like these in multilateral fora or with individual governments are beneficial to all parties. It helps governments to build even more efficient regulation. In turn, that helps airlines to better connect economies and societies.
In conclusion, I am pleased to say that the industry fully supports the proposed declaration of this conference, the efforts of the Ministers from the Asia and Pacific States responsible for civil aviation, and the objectives being pursued under the ICAO "No Country Left Behind" initiative.
Aviation is the business of freedom---a powerful force creating opportunities for individuals to lead better lives, for communities to develop and countries to prosper. With that thought, I wish you successful deliberations. And for those who will soon be celebrating the Lunar New Year, I wish you a prosperous year of the dog.