S'pore, US to deepen trade and business ties, will upgrade FTA

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong (right) said he and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai had substantive discussions in Washington. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

WASHINGTON - Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai had "substantive discussions" in Washington on Friday (Oct 8), on advancing collaboration in areas such as digital trade, environment and the green economy, supply-chain resilience and ways to support workers.

"Singapore looks forward to deepening our cooperation with the US in these areas to unlock opportunities for our workers and businesses of all sizes, especially SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)," Mr Gan said in a statement.

The two also co-chaired the Joint Committee Meeting of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which, at almost 20 years old, needs refreshing to take into account changes, Mr Gan said.

He said: "It's one of the first FTAs the US entered into with an Asian country, and we took this opportunity to look at various aspects… and how to update the agreement which was signed close to 20 years ago.

"It is important for us to refresh (it) given a lot of the landscape has changed and evolved.

"The digital economy has grown significantly; the rules and provision we put in the FTA will no longer be relevant so it is important for us to continue to refresh the agreement - which will create more opportunities for businesses to invest both ways."

He added: "We are going to undertake quite a broad-based review, we set up a working group which will discuss how to go about to upgrade and refresh (the FTA)."

During his visit, Mr Gan also met the US business community, as well as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, with whom he signed the US-Singapore Partnership for Growth and Innovation.

"We agreed… on a work plan over the next few years to identify key projects and with a clear implementation plan," he said.

The intent is to keep the partnership open to other countries interested in participating, once concepts and projects have been developed and the value of the Partnership has been demonstrated, he said.

"Businesses continue to be interested in Singapore and want to know a lot more about Singapore," he said. "The business community and the administration are also interested in the broader Asean and Asia-Pacific region," he added.

"They all continue to be keen to engage the Asia-Pacific region, and I encouraged them," he said.

"There are quite a few interesting and emerging areas of opportunities. One example is the digital economy. I think the digital economy is going to be a key engine of growth for many countries.

"All of us have experienced the transformation and transition to a digital economy - especially during the Covid-19 (pandemic), many businesses done physically in the past have gone on to digital platforms."

He added: "Another area of great interest is the green economy. Sustainability is a key topic, whether it has been in my discussions with the administration or the business community - and therefore business opportunities in the green economy and sustainability is something they are very keen to explore and find opportunities in Singapore as well as in the region."

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There was also interest in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) - the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the US left in 2017.

Mr Gan said he had shared the status of the CPTPP and the fact that a lot of parties had indicated interest in joining the trade pact.

"The US was the original architect of the TPP," he noted. "Whether they are able to rejoin the CPTPP they will have to consider very carefully.

"But the US is interested to continue to engage the Asia-Pacific region, whether it is through rejoining the CPTPP or exploring other platforms and frameworks for collaboration."

He said he had suggested that the US and Singapore could collaborate in the digital economy area, and such arrangements could later expand to other areas.

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