Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong laments about US president-elect Donald Trump’s decision to pull out his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at People’s Action Party (PAP) 34th party conference held at Singapore Expo.
He said in his speech, “Yes, we worked very hard, and earned our success but we were also very lucky to enjoy this international environment. We attracted foreign investments, we negotiated FTAs, we worked with other countries, we expanded our exports, we traded and we prospered.”
PM Lee noted that many countries have become increasingly “assertive” and that nobody could tell how the relations between the big powers will develop. Particularly, the relations between the US and China.
He said that if US-China relations grow tense, Singapore would be in a difficult spot, since the country regard both as friends and do not want to have to choose between them.
As the world trade is flat and obstacles to trade are increasing, PM Lee said that Singapore’s exports are not growing much and it is much harder for countries to prosper together, to achieve win-win outcomes.
Pointing at the TPP and noted, ” We worked very hard for it. Twelve countries spent six years negotiating the TPP, including the US and Singapore. We all negotiated hard, and all 12 were satisfied that it was a good deal. Now, America has a new president, and President-elect Trump has declared that the TPP is bad for the US, and that he will pull the US out of the TPP.”
PM Lee stressed that without the US, there will be no TPP. Therefore, Singapore has to accept the world as it is, not as it wish it to be.
“We still hope that one day, we will have a regional trade deal which will include the US, which will include Singapore, include Japan and the other big countries. But it is a long way off. And we will have to make the best of the situation,” he said.
He also said that Singapore have to continue to pursue trade liberalisation with others in the region. For example, another set of initials, RCEP, which means the Regional Comprehensive Economic Programme, which consists of different group with Japan, Korea, China, other ASEAN countries, India, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
“So if we cannot get the TPP, we have another free trade agreement. Not the same, but let us make the best we can. We must continue to cooperate with the major powers – America, China, Europe, ASEAN and the others,” he said.
PM Lee then stressed that Singapore must remain open, because if the country closes up like other countries, its people will be finished.
“So the external world is changing on us, and changing in a very fundamental way. It is not advantageous to us and we have to know how this is going to impact us over the next few years,” he ended.
Despite the hard work by the diplomats on formulating the free trade partnership, much of the discussion and deal had been shrouded with secrecy, which led to much distrust by citizens of various partnering countries on the proposed TPP.
Only five of the 29 chapters deal with traditional trade issues. Most of the chapters deal with non-trade matters that affect people’s daily lives, such as food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, job off-shoring, financial regulation, and more. Studies have detailed how intellectual property stipulations in the TPP will very likely impact agriculture and food security, particularly in the poorer regions. The primary concern that revolve around TPP seems to be that big corporations will hold a deciding role in regional or even global economics, at the expense of ordinary citizens of member countries.
Both US Presidential candidate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had pledged to step away from the TPP in their election campaign as the population viewed the trade deal as being non-beneficial towards the citizens.