Multilateralism has played a very weak role in the liberalization of airlines. The European Union is a strong example, but it was a unique situation that was established within the framework of a much broader pact. As unreaward as it is, the moves in Asia towards a multilateral « open skies » offer considerable hope for a much more open trading system, as rapid growth flattens differences. Meanwhile, ASEAN and China have concluded a second protocol to their agreement, granting unlimited rights to the fifth freedom. However, the lack of a common position among ASEAN countries and China`s caution in opening up its major cities have resulted in an agreement that is likely to be insignificant in trade. The plan was for all ASEAN airlines to enjoy unlimited third, fourth and fifth freedom operations in the region. However, after the deadline of early 2016 expired, three ASEAN members – the Philippines, Indonesia and Laos – are reluctant to ratify the full agreement. At present, Indonesia remains opposed to opening up its secondary cities, the Philippines has excluded Manila from the deal, and Laos has yet to liberate Luang Prabang and Vientiane, the national capital.  This imbalance in networks is due to the fact that the ASEAN countries themselves are not able or willing to treat themselves as a genuine internal market or a common market. We only know this if we remember that European countries have been disadvantaged in the same way in their « multilateral » relations with the United States. The ASEAN Air Transport Market (ASEAN-SAM), also known as the ASEAN Open Sky/Policy Agreement, is the most important aviation policy in the region. It aims to develop a single and unified air transport market between ASEAN members in Southeast Asia, which is expected to start on 1 January 2015, although not all agreements have been signed.
 The air transport policy was proposed by the ASEAN Air Transport Working Group, supported by the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting and endorsed by ASEAN Ministers of Transport.  The establishment of ASEAN-SAM was an important element of the roadmap for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community.  However, the agreements provide that any ASEAN country wishing to operate in that country may continue to refuse approval. This results in risks and uncertainties for potential cross-border investments in « municipal » airlines. In the meantime, AirAsia and Jetstar can only grow by combining local subsidiaries that must remain essentially owned by local interests. Both ASEAN agreements attempt to introduce alternatives to the traditional rule of « substantial ownership and control ». This is why the agreements provide for the creation of « community » ASEAN airlines, which are based on majority ownership and effective control in the hands of one or more ASEAN countries or their nationals. This paves the way for an airline owned and controlled by interests distributed among ASEAN countries, just like in Europe. ASEAN`s aviation market policy will replace existing bilateral and multilateral air transport agreements between Member States that are incompatible with their provisions.
This paradox occurs because ASEAN airlines can only operate from points on their own territory to Chinese points. Singapore`s airlines, for example, can only operate from Singapore to China and not from other points in ASEAN. Similarly, Malaysian airlines have unlimited access to China, but only points in Malaysia. To connect China to other ASEAN points outside the airline`s home country, the granting of seventh freedoms between the ASEAN countries themselves would be necessary, which is not (yet) envisaged.