The landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact will provide Singapore with new opportunities and access to fresh markets, while the negative impact will be muted, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
The reason is: Singapore already has free trade agreements with all the TPP countries except Canada and Mexico. Also, the new deal will extend Singapore's previously established commitments to the entire bloc, he added.
But its impact will be greater for countries that have to remove high tariffs or those with sensitive sectors, such as agriculture in Japan and automobiles in the US.
"So those are the ones where there will be very visible winners and losers," said Mr Lee during a press conference with the Singapore media at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders' Meeting.
For Singapore, "it means export markets... more opportunities".
The TPP, he said, was the main achievement of his trip to Manila. Leaders of the 12 nations in the trade pact met for the first time on the sidelines of the Apec Leaders' Meeting since their officials concluded the TPP negotiations last month.
"There was a little bit of celebration," Mr Lee added. He also said the TPP members had committed themselves to signing and ratifying the trade deal as soon as they could.
But before it can come into force, the TPP has to be approved by lawmakers in each member country. US President Barack Obama has strongly backed the deal but several prominent Congressmen are opposed to it.
Mr Lee said he hoped the TPP would pass the US Congress before the US presidential election season starts in February. There is "not a very big window" of time for Congress to ratify it, he added.
As for countries that are looking at joining the TPP, the Prime Minister said it will be "several years down the road at the very earliest". The reason is that the process for getting the TPP implemented has yet to completed. "I don't see the next round starting until that has happened," he said.
South Korea has expressed interest while Indonesia is considering it.
Singapore favours expanding the TPP but countries must consider if it is economically and politically viable for them to do so, he said.
Chong Zi Liang