Premiers Lee and Abe discuss trade deals, reaffirm ties

Premiers Lee and Abe discuss trade deals, reaffirm ties
The leaders at their breakfast meeting on Monday. ‘I wished PM Abe all the best in the reforms he is doing in Japan, and in his plans for Japan to play a larger constructive role in Asia,’ PM Lee says in a Facebook post.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's last order of business on his three-day visit to Brisbane before returning home was a meeting with the leader of the world's third-largest economy.

Over breakfast on Monday, he had talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a range of issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal negotiations in which both countries are involved.

The pair were in Brisbane over the weekend to attend the G-20 Summit, which ended on Sunday. This was their fourth meeting in the last year, most recently in May when Mr Abe visited Singapore to deliver the keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

"Each time, we have had a good exchange on what is happening in the world. We spend only a bit of time on Singapore-Japan relations, which are in good shape," said Mr Lee in a Facebook post after the meeting.

"I wished PM Abe all the best in the reforms he is doing in Japan, and in his plans for Japan to play a larger constructive role in Asia," he added.

They took the opportunity to reaffirm the "warm relations and the substantive progress made" since their last meeting, saidMrLee's press secretary.

They also discussed regional security and political developments, while Mr Abe reiterated his country's commitment to regional peace and stability.

The leaders discussed regional trade agreements including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the TPP.

They said that the RCEP was making "good progress and was important to facilitating closer trade cooperation" in East Asia. TheRCEP involves the 10 member states of ASEAN, and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

As for the TPP, the 12 countries involved are working hard towards concluding the negotiations. Both Mr Lee andMrAbenoted, however, that a successful outcome would depend on the respective ratification process of each country.

The TPP nations are the United States, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Canada and Vietnam. Collectively, they represent about 40 per cent of global GDP.

While it is believed that a deal isimminent, there has been no firm timeline set for the conclusion of the negotiations. The negotiations have stalled largely due to an impasse between Washington and Tokyo over Japanese agricultural and US car import tariffs. At an event in Beijing last week,PMLee said that he was hopeful that the TPP talks could be wrapped up in early-2015.

leeuwen@sph.com.sg

@LeeUwenBT


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