Singapore firms welcome TPP with eye on opportunities

Trade representatives from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership member countries at the closing press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday. Business chambers have lauded the TPP's special provisions that aim to help smaller enterprises integrate int
Trade representatives from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership member countries at the closing press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday. Business chambers have lauded the TPP's special provisions that aim to help smaller enterprises integrate into the global supply chain and expand overseas.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

But ratification of far-reaching trade pact by member states is not a done deal, they warn

Business associations and companies here have welcomed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying it will create new opportunities and boost trade in the region.

But they also warned that ratification of the treaty by member states will be the more difficult step and is by no means a done deal.

The TPP is a far-reaching agreement involving 12 countries which make up 40 per cent of the world economy.

 

The deal was finally struck in the US city of Atlanta on Monday after five years of intense negotiations and must now be signed formally by the leaders of the 12 nations - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam - and ratified by their parliaments.

 

The TPP agreement could open up new opportunities, strengthen trade and investment rules, and improve business conditions in the region, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) said.

  • Winners and losers

  • Here's a look at some of those who stand to win or lose from the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

    WINNERS

    Japan

    Japanese car and vehicle-parts makers may be the biggest winners, as they get cheaper access to the United States, the industry's biggest export market.

    Australia

    Australia will gain access to the US sugar market while Japan will also reduce levies on the product. The cut in the beef tariff will help Australian ranchers, while tariffs will be dropped for seafood and most horticultural products. Preferential quota access will be created for grains and cereals.

    New Zealand

    New Zealand, along with Australia, successfully pressured the US to curb protectionism for new biotech drugs from the minimum of 12 years to five years. That could lead to cheaper drugs and more competition.The dairy industry, which accounts for about a quarter of the country's exports, will see savings of about NZ$102 million (S$94 million) a year. Tariffs will be eliminated on 93 per cent of the country's trade, including on beef exports, seafood, fruit and wine.

    Vietnam

    Reduced import duties in the US and Japan will benefit the country's apparel makers, while its fishing industry will benefit from the elimination of import tax on shrimp, squid and tuna, now averaging at 6.4 to 7.2 per cent.

    Malaysia

    Its electronics, chemical products, palm oil and rubber exporters are among the beneficiaries.

    LOSERS

    Japan

    Japanese rice farmers will lose some of their protections with a non-tariff import quota of 1 per cent of total rice consumption.

    Vietnam

    Eliminating import taxes on pharmaceutical products from the current average of about 2.5 per cent will lead to tougher competition between domestic companies and foreign players.

    Malaysia

    Its state-owned enterprises may suffer from the deal, which calls for equal access to government procurement.

    China

    The second-biggest economy may be among the biggest losers as it failed to join the TPP, allowing the US to tighten trade ties across the region and advance the Obama administration's so-called pivot to Asia. Chinese exporters may lose some market share in the US and Japan to developing countries such as Vietnam.

SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit told The Straits Times that it is still too early to identify specific areas of concern for the business community as the details are not yet available. The top priority now is to get the deal ratified in key economies such as the United States, he said.

Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief executive Victor Mills agreed, noting that the deal accomplishes the key strategic imperative of anchoring the US to the Asia-Pacific region.

"This strategic imperative has always been Singapore policy and even more so in recent years to balance the rise of China and Chinese maritime ambitions," he said.

Business chambers also lauded the TPP's special provisions that aim to help smaller enterprises integrate into the global supply chain and expand overseas.

"What's most important is for SMEs to put in place an actionable plan to expand into the region. If our SMEs are slow to move, they will lose out," said Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee.

Besides opening up trade between member countries, however, the TPP also contains rules on a range of controversial issues, some of which could affect Singapore.

For instance, the pact includes a mechanism that will allow foreign investors to bring TPP governments to arbitration. Critics fear that this will undermine the ability of governments to regulate multinational firms.

The agreement also addresses issues such as the development of the digital economy, and the role of state-owned enterprises in the global economy.

Singapore already has free trade agreements with all of the TPP countries except Canada and Mexico.

But the TPP will do more than broaden Singapore's access to freer trade in new markets, said DBS economist Irvin Seah. The agreement will also deepen the Republic's existing trade relationships by including components which were left out of previous agreements.

For instance, the pact will allow Singapore companies to participate in government procurement projects in TPP member countries.

HSBC economist Frederic Neumann noted that the details of the agreement have so far been sketchy, with consumers unclear of the benefits or costs of the deal.

But with more information on the deal likely to be released, there could be fierce opposition, especially in South-east Asian countries where "suspicion over foreign involvement in local economies remains strong", he noted.

For at least one company, the benefits of the trade deal are clear.

Mr Gary Lee, deputy general manager for export sales and marketing at food and beverage group Tee Yih Jia, said the company hopes to ramp up exports to South American markets such as Chile and Peru, which are part of the TPP.

SEE OPINION

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore firms welcome TPP with eye on opportunities'. Print Edition | Subscribe