US envoy optimistic about trade deal

Mr Wagar speaking at last night's event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the US and Singapore at Library@Orchard.
Mr Wagar speaking at last night's event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the US and Singapore at Library@Orchard.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

TPP a good deal for region and Congress will give green light eventually: Wagar

While uncertainty swirls over whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPP) will be ratified, United States Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar believes it will eventually be given the green light by Congress.

Calling it a good deal for the region, Mr Wagar said countries are sending that message and singled out Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the "loudest voice" to push through the deal.

"This is a team sport," he said. "Just as we need Singapore's help to make sure the implementation... goes through."

The US is the chief negotiator for the TPP, which includes Singapore and 10 other Pacific Rim nations. The deal was formally inked in Auckland in February and has to be ratified before January next year.

But there have been doubts that the deadline will be met as it comes just as the US is holding its presidential election in November.

PM Lee said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week that while he was hopeful, he "is not optimistic" of its prospects.

But Mr Wagar said yesterday that he is optimistic the deal will be ratified. Speaking to reporters after an event to mark 50 years since Singapore and the US established formal diplomatic ties, Mr Wagar said: "We are going to have an election where you will have some people retire, some people lose. And then you have a vote after the election."

Singapore remains an important friend to the US in the region, Mr Wagar said. Besides trade, the militaries of both countries also work closely, most recently stepping up cooperation in new areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as cyber defence.

Mr Wagar said that Singapore's role is not about pushing an "American point of view" but "a world view that has worked versus other alternatives that haven't".

At last night's event at the Library@Orchard, Mr Wagar launched a book of photo essays by Mr George Porter, the first US diplomat based in Singapore. He also presented 50 copies of the book, titled Singapore 60s: An Age Of Discovery, to the National Library.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'US envoy optimistic about trade deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe