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Singapore Prime Minister Says Prospects of Trans-Pacific Partnership Have Dimmed

by December 31, 2016 General

By P.R. Venkat SINGAPORE — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Saturday prospects of a Trans-Pacific Partnership have dimmed, and his country was continuing to pursue other avenues of economic cooperation.“Another major focus has been strengthening ties with major partners to create opportunities for Singapore companies and Singaporeans,” Mr. Lee said in his New Year message.He highlighted various economic cooperation the city-state was pursuing including a trade deal with a 16-nation bloc in Asia called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes countries such as China and Japan.The future of the TPP has turned bleak because of opposition by President-elect Donald Trump, who said the U.S. will pull out of the 12-nation group on his first day in office in January.The agreement requires U.S. ratification to come into force. Four Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei were part of the TPP trade pact, which was a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s pivot to the region. Others including the Philippines and Indonesia had expressed their intent to join.For the TPP trade pact to take effect requires at least six countries representing at least 85% of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 founding members ratify the pact within two years.Without the U.S., the 11 remaining members wouldn’t meet the GDP threshold. Mr. Obama saw the region of more than 600 million people, with a combined economy of more than $2.5 trillion, as a counterweight to China’s rising influence, and attended annual meetings of Association of South East Asian Nation leaders to help cement the relationship.Mr. Trump has given little indication of his intentions for the region.“Singapore is making good progress, but the world around us is in flux,” Mr. Lee said, adding that in developed countries, a mood of nativist nationalism has grown. “There is profound angst and discontent with the impact of technology and globalization. People want to shut themselves off, to insulate themselves from foreign competition. This will most likely hurt themselves and fail to improve their lives.”Mr. Lee said small countries such as Singapore can’t close itself and the best choice was to stay open.The prime minister also said Singapore’s economy is expected to grow over 1% this year, but less than what the government had hoped. The government had expected to economy to grow between 1.0%-1.5% in 2016.Write to P.R. Venkat at