MTI: S'pore committed to finding a way forward on TPP with other countries

Singapore says it remains committed to working with other countries to "find a way forward" to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), even as United States President-elect Donald Trump moves to scupper the deal.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) was responding to The Straits Times on Mr Trump's vow to issue a note of intent on his first day of office on Jan 20 to leave the TPP, a 12-nation Asia-Pacific free trade pact that took the Obama administration seven years to negotiate.

Calling the TPP a high-quality free-trade pact that would promote growth and job creation, MTI said the TPP partners had agreed on the sidelines of last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit that the "fundamental rationale for the TPP has not changed".

"We respect the position of the incoming US administration. In the meantime, the other partners are looking to continue with domestic efforts to ratify the TPP," an MTI spokesman said. "Singapore and the US are like-minded partners who share robust and longstanding bilateral economic relations. The US enjoys a healthy trade surplus with Singapore, and our companies have created good jobs in both countries."

Mr Trump had called the TPP a "potential disaster" for the US, and pledged to negotiate "fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back to American shores".

But his move may cost the US its strategic leadership in trade and diplomacy in the region, and give China a greater foothold. Already, China has been stepping up its push for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which excludes the US.

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun noted that even if the US backs out of the TPP, Singapore can still benefit from a modified version of TPP. "Singapore has free trade agreements with everyone except Canada and Mexico. If they remain committed to TPP, that means there will be opportunities for Singapore firms to tap these markets," he said.

"Even if TPP dies, Singapore already has a bilateral trade agreement with the US, so our position isn't entirely bad. Those companies in the region that want to explore opportunities in the US can do so through Singapore," Mr Song added.

"If Trump wants to give China the opportunity to sell the virtues of free trade, so be it. For us, it doesn't matter who pushes the agenda, as long as the push for more open trade remains on the table for export-dependent countries like Singapore."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'MTI: S'pore committed to finding a way forward on TPP with other countries'. Subscribe