Talks on 11-nation trade pact to be held in Singapore next week

Discussions on a 11-nation trade pact will kick off in Singapore next week, a senior US trade official said.

While details are scarce on the 16th round of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Mr Jose Fernandez said the goal of the trade partnership is to remove all barriers in order to create strong, stable and dynamic regional economies.

"This will include strong protection for workers, for intellectual properties, for the environment and for innovation," Mr Fernandez said at a lunch briefing on Thursday organised by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Tanglin Club.

He added that the aim of the TPP is also to promote green technology, free flow of information technology and have a level playing field for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) alongside multinational companies.

The United States and 10 other nations are negotiating a sweeping trade accord called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the Obama administration makes Washington's renewed engagement in Asia the centrepiece of his second term in office.

Member nations include Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States and Vietnam, while Mr Fernandez said, membership is open for more nations.

Economies of the TPP countries make up almost a third of the global Gross Domestic Product, he said.

Mr Fernandez also applauded Singapore for its leadership in trade liberalisation and hoped that its bilateral ties with the US continues to prosper.

Since the Free Trade Agreement was signed between the two nations, Singapore has been an attractive investment destination for the US and its 13th largest export market.

The two-way trade in 2012 was nearly US$50 billion (S$61.9 billion), Mr Fernandez said, adding that with excellent business, commercial and general relationship, the FTA can be further improved. rupsk@sph.com.sg