S'pore hopes US, China will resolve disputes speedily

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 at the end of a working visit to China.

And on all such trade issues, Singapore takes a position based on principles, Mr Teo stressed.

"When we say we are for multilateral trade arrangements and free trade, and we support those and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it is not because we support one country or another," he said yesterday in reply to a question on whether the issue of the ongoing China-US trade conflict was discussed at his meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing. China and other countries want to use multilateral platforms like the WTO to settle differences over trade.

Singapore's principled position stems from its belief that this is a better way of organising the world and can bring prosperity in the long run to all countries, Mr Teo said.

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 "pressing on" with its free trade agreement negotiations. 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 others on multilateral trade pacts.

"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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore hopes US, China will resolve disputes speedily'. Print Edition | Subscribe