Apec took useful steps forward: PM Lee
A conclusion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is not imminent although the countries involved still hope to resolve it within a reasonable time, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as he wrapped up a two day summit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) on Sunday.
Talks over a TPP deal with 11 members of the Pacific rim, that include the United States (US), Singapore and Mexico, were held on the sidelines of the Apec meeting in Vladivostok this week.
It is a complicated exercise and with many political sensitivities, said Mr Lee in an interview with Singapore media at his room on the campus of Far Eastern Federal University where the Apec summit was held.
"And also this year is the American election year, so I think they cannot settle politically delicate things until a more favourable moment," he said.
US President Barack Obama did not attend the Apec meetings as he bid for a second term in government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended on his behalf.
Mr Lee said the Apec leaders took "significant or useful steps forward" even though there were no "earthshaking changes".
The leaders of the 21 members of Apec re-affirmed the broader goals of free trade, which he said was valuable at a time when many governments are currently under pressure to protect their markets when the economic conditions are difficult.
In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Apec summit on Sunday, the leaders sounded a warning on the global economy which it said is facing "downside risks" with fragile financial markets and public debt in developed economies "creating strong headwinds to economic recovery globally".
They resolved to work together to support growth, foster financial stability and restore confidence in the global economy.
"We are committed to strengthening domestic demand where appropriate, facilitating job creation, reducing high public deficits and debts and implementing structural reforms to boost growth in our economies," the statement said.
The economic grouping, which brings together major economies like the US and China, also reaffirmed their commitment to move toward market-determined exchange rate systems and avoid competitive devaluation of currencies and exchange rate misalignments.
They also endorsed, as expected, a list of environmental goods which the countries will cap tariffs on at 5 per cent by 2015. They introduced transparency of free trade agreements as a next generation trade and investment issue, and endorsed an Apec Model Chapter on it, and said they would take steps to improve food security and strengthen the reliability of supply chains.
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde also attended the final day of meetings with the 21 leaders.
"For Apec, the priority is to ensure that their economies remain resilient to external pressures - which means not only the right macroeconomic policies, but also measures to ensure that growth is more inclusive and can benefit as many people as possible," Ms Lagarde said.