Singapore hopes US, China will be able to resolve trade disputes speedily: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the China Lanzhou Investment and Trade Fair on July 5, 2018.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the China Lanzhou Investment and Trade Fair on July 5, 2018.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

LANZHOU, GANSU  - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said Singapore hopes the United States and China will be able to resolve their trade disputes "speedily" and in a way that can bring benefits to everyone.

"We think that a trade war - tit for tat - is not going to help any side," he told Singapore media in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of north-western Gansu, on Thursday (July 5) after a working visit to China, reiterating a point his colleagues have made in recent weeks.

He stressed that Singapore takes a position based on principles on all such trade issues.

"So, when we say we are for multilateral trade arrangements and free trade, and we support those and the World Trade Organisation, it is not because we support one country or another," he said, in reply to a question on whether the issue of the ongoing China-US trade conflicts was discussed during his meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

Its principled position stems from its belief that it is a better way of organising the world and can bring prosperity in the long run to all countries, he added.

Similarly, when Singapore says countries should follow international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, for right of passage for ships and aircraft, it does so "as a matter of principle".

"We live by those passage rights for aircraft and ships because we are such a major trading nation," Mr Teo added.

Despite anxieties over a full-blown global trade war, Singapore is still "pressing on" with its free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with other countries.

With China, talks on the upgrade of the China-Singapore FTA are ongoing and Singapore hopes to conclude negotiations this year.

Singapore is also pursuing an FTA with the European Union, and is working with other countries on regional multilateral trading pacts, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"From Singapore's point of view, these are all the signals we are sending that we support free trade, rules-based trade, multilateral trade, and we believe this is the best way in which we can foster prosperity for all countries in the world," said Mr Teo.