Shutdown 'not helpful' for US, says PM Lee

Shutdown 'not helpful' for US, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE - The federal government shutdown has dented the United States' diplomacy and restructuring efforts at home, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, though he believes the country is vibrant and resilient and welcomes it remaining a powerful force into the future.

Addressing a gathering of global business leaders here as the shutdown dragged on for a sixth day, Mr Lee said the shutdown had made it impossible for the administration to carry out normal diplomatic activities, and to address longer-term structural problems with the fiscal deficit, infrastructure and education.

"It is... not helpful for the American political system to be in gridlock when you have to make some basic decisions on how to keep your fiscal state in balance in the long term, and how to strengthen your competitiveness over decades," he said.

These were tasks, he added at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit, which would take more than one presidential term to carry out.

The crisis, a result of a stalemate in a divided Congress, has also affected the US' geopolitical role. On Friday, US President Barack Obama called off his visits to Indonesia and Brunei for this week's Apec and East Asian summits to deal with the domestic situation. Secretary of State John Kerry was tasked to replace him.

Mr Lee, in his first comments on the US government shutdown, said yesterday it was a "great disappointment" that Mr Obama called off his trip to the region.

"Obviously we prefer a US government which is working to one which is not, and we prefer a US President who is able to travel and fulfil his international duties to one who is preoccupied" with domestic issues, he added during a panel discussion on the state of the world.

"America is a very important partner for us, but we understand his problems and his priorities and we hope he'll be able to resolve them quickly."

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