Parliament: US withdrawal from TPP a setback, but may not be its end, says Lim Hng Kiang

Men hold signs as they protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC in November 2016.
Men hold signs as they protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC in November 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The United States' withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a setback for the massive trade deal, but does not necessarily spell its end, Trade and Industry (Trade) Minister Lim Hng Kiang said in Parliament on Monday (Feb 6).

Mr Lim said now each of the remaining 11 TPP members - the US was the 12th - must study the benefits of pushing ahead the agreement without the US, and consider the value such a deal would bring to their economies.

There could be various possible outcomes, he added.

For example, the 11 countries could decide that it would be better to pursue bilateral trade deals with one another instead.

They might also decide to push ahead with the TPP now and ratify it, in the hopes that the US government will change its mind and rejoin the deal before its deadline is up. The original agreement was that all 12 members would get the ratification process done within two years from signing the deal, which took place in February last year.

Or they might pursue "TPP 11" - the same deal, but redrawn to exclude the US.

In the meantime, Mr Lim said Singapore will pursue other opportunities to strengthen its trade linkages with regional partners, such as through the Asean Economic Community and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an Asia-Pacific trade liberalisation initiative led by China that includes the 10 Asean members as well as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and India.

Mr Lim also noted that even if the TPP does not come to fruition as originally planned, the impact on Singapore would not be very significant.

"What we forgo are incremental benefits that we would have achieved over and above the benefits that we already have, through bilateral free trade agreements with the other nine of the countries in the TPP group."

Singapore has a bilateral free-trade pact with the US, as well as with all of the other TPP countries except Canada and Mexico.