World in watchful state after US election: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

President-elect Donald Trump, who had campaigned on an anti-trade platform, may have stoked fears of protectionism in the United States, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not see a mood of despair descending on the world.

It is more a mood of watchfulness, as the world awaits the team he assembles and the policies his administration implements, Mr Lee said at a media conference with Singapore reporters.

He noted that past US presidents, including Mr Bill Clinton, Mr George W. Bush and current leader Barack Obama, have had to modify their campaign positions "in the light of the test of reality and experience".

"So I fully expect that when the new administration comes in, they will have to review their positions," Mr Lee said.

This time, however, the US campaign was a lot harsher than previous ones, in tone and in rhetoric, he added.

"So to make an adjustment is harder, but we have to wait and see."

Mr Lee made the point when he was asked about the mood at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit that ended in Peru on Sunday.

What APEC leaders wore through years for that obligatory 'family' photo

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his fellow leaders sported long, brown shawls draped over their shoulders in 2016. They were made from the coveted wool of the vicuna, a llama-like animal.
  • In this 1994 file photo taken in Bogor, Indonesia, the Apec leaders are togged out in dignified batik shirts. The different prints offer variety as well as a unifying theme.
  • For the family photo in 1997, taken outside the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Canada, the choice was leather bomber jackets. It was uniform, and boring, if weather appropriate.
  • In 2004, host Chile offered leaders colourful reversible ponchos handwoven with silk thread and wool, decorated with traditional motifs like barley, wheat and pansies.
  • The choice was traditional for Korea in 2005, where leaders were offered durumagi, a traditional silk overcoat, in various shares of gold, brown, silver, dark blue and light green. The two women leaders - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark - had the additional options of pink and purple.
  • In Vietnam (2006), the women were stuck in a bright Barbie pink outfit and hat which were not very flattering, to say the least. The men got away with more muted shades of blue, red, yellow and green for their ao dai.
  • The dowdy raincoats for the 2007 Sydney shoot must rank at the bottom of the style stakes. Even the 1997 bomber jackets had a bit of swashbuckle to them.
  • In Singapore in 2009, the Apec leaders were togged out in snazzy Peranakan-inspired outfits thanks to home-grown designer Wykidd Song.
  • In 2014, host China went with the safe choice: Chinese jacket for the men, and cheongsam with long jacket in a matching shade for the women.
  • When it was the Philippines' turn to host the summit in 2015, leaders trooped on stage for the photo-op togged out in a fashionable national garment: the barong tagalog.
  • Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shakes hands with Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski as he arrives at the Lima Convention Centre for the APEC Leaders' Retreat on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima on November 20, 2016.
  • PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to the Singapore media after the Apec summit in Lima, Peru, on 20 Nov 2016.
  • PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to the Singapore media after the Apec summit in Lima, Peru, on 20 Nov 2016.
  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe(C) and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri arrive for a press conference at Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires on November 21, 2016.
  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri (R) shake hands before a meeting at the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires on November 21, 2016.
  • China's President Xi Jinping arrives at the Peruvian congress for a ceremony in Lima on November 21, 2016 during an official visit ensueing the APEC Summit
  • Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (R) and China's President Xi Jinping shakes hands at the Lima Convention Centre for the APEC Leaders' Retreat on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima on November 20, 2016.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Philippines' counterpart Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Lima on November 19, 2016
  • Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (R) shaking hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Lima.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama holds a press conference at the conclusion of the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.
  • US President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima on November 20, 2016.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah arrive for a family photo during the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Lima, Peru, November 20, 2016.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meet during the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.
  • Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski greets Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, on the final day of the Apec Summit in Lima, Peru, 20 Nov 2016
  • After sparking ridicule several years ago by dressing world leaders in baggy ponchos, Peru toned it down Sunday by getting dignitaries at a major summit to wear shawls made from the fine wool of a mountain-dwelling creature called the vicuna.
  • From Chinese tunics to Philippine pineapple shirts, the APEC group has a decades-old tradition of getting presidents and prime ministers to don traditional garments of the host country for their annual get-together.
  • In Peru, leaders appeared for the traditional "family photo" with long, brown shawls made from the coveted wool of the vicuna - a llama-like animal - draped over their shoulders.
  • The global power players, among them US President Barack Obama, China's Xi Jinping and Japan's Shinzo Abe, looked relaxed, smiling and waving as they lined up in alphabetical order according to their countries.
  • The wool of the vicuna, an animal found in the Andes mountains, is among the rarest natural fibers in the world, making it extremely costly and prized by fashion designers.
  • This year's was a relatively modest APEC fashion parade compared to previous editions, which have sometimes led to awkward moments.
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Lima, Peru.
  • At the summit, leaders of 21 economies are expected to discuss the future of free trade amid rising anti-globalisation sentiments worldwide.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be on the agenda as leaders of the pact's 12 signatory countries, including United States President Barack Obama, meet to find a way forward after the US election.
  • The landmark trade deal now hangs in the balance as it can come into force only if it is approved by six countries that account for at least 85 per cent of the group's economic output. This means ratification by the US, given the giant size of its economy, is crucial.
  • PM Lee said that a United States that detaches itself from the world's economy will risk unsettling the global trading system that it has helped nurture and foster over the decades.
  • If the US turns inwards, growth can be pursued in Europe and Asia "but you're missing out on a huge opportunity if America is not part of the story", PM Lee said on Friday.
  • PM Lee said that Singapore will amend legislation to bring the TPP into effect and aims to do so by early next year.
  • PM Lee with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and US president Barack Obama. Mr Lee thanked President Obama for personally leading the TPP.
  • Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks at Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski trying a virtual reality headset while visiting the Facebook exhibition booth during the Apec Summit.
  • Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte arrives at a hotel to attend a bilateral meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
  • The APEC summit is being held in Lima, Peru.

"It is a mood of watchfulness, of waiting to see, and being cautious not to foreclose options prematurely, so that you find yourself at a dead end unnecessarily," he said in the wrap-up session on his five-day trip to the annual event in which leaders of the 21 member economies meet to discuss economic integration and trade.

The US leadership transition will take place in January next year.

Mr Lee also felt it would be a big loss should the US turn inwards, as American engagement in the region is positive for security, economic and trade reasons.

"So if you do not have that, you lose something valuable. If in fact the US turns inwards and becomes protectionist and anti-free trade, then of course the loss is even greater," he said.

"But whether that happens is speculation."

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Mr Lee said it would be a big loss if the trade pact does not come into fruition, given its strategic and economic importance.

"It would make a lasting contribution to the stability and the prosperity of the region, so we lose that, well, life goes on.

But you have lost something precious and which would have been very worthwhile having," he said.

Donald Trump wins US presidency in stunning upset

  • Donald Trump has stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.
  • The Republican mogul defeated his Democratic rival, plunging global markets into turmoil and casting the long-standing global political order, which hinges on Washington's leadership, into doubt.
  • "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump told a crowd of jubilant supporters in the early hours of Wednesday in New York.
  • "I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." During a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America's democratic fabric, the bombastic tycoon pledged to deport illegal immigrants, ban Muslims from the country and tear up free trade deals.
  • His message appears to have been embraced by much of America's white majority, disgruntled by the breath and scope of social change and economic change in the last eight years under their first black president, Barack Obama.
  • Trump openly courted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, called US support for NATO allies in Europe into question and suggested that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.
  • The businessman turned TV star turned-politico - who has never before held elected office - will become commander-in-chief of the world's sole true superpower on January 20.
  • The results prompted a global market sell-off, with stocks plunging across Asia and Europe and billions being wiped off the value of investments.
  • Although he has no government experience and in recent years has spent as much time running beauty pageants and starring in reality television as he had building his property empire, Trump at 70 will be the oldest man to ever become president.
  • Yet, during his improbable rise, Trump has constantly proved the pundits and received political wisdom wrong.
  • Opposed by the entire senior hierarchy of his own Republican Party, he trounced more than a dozen better-funded and more experienced rivals in the party primary.
  • During the race, he was forced to ride out allegations of sexual assault and was embarrassed but apparently not shamed to have been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
  • And, unique in modern US political history, he refused to release his tax returns.
  • But the biggest upset came on Tuesday, as he swept to victory through a series of hard-fought wins in battleground states from Florida to Ohio.
  • Clinton had been widely assumed to be on course to enter the history books as the first woman to become president in America's 240-year existence.
  • Americans have repudiated her call for unity amid the United States' wide cultural and racial diversity, opting instead for a leader who insisted the country is broken and that "I alone can fix it."
  • If early results hold out, Trump's party will have full control of Congress and he will be able to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice to a vacant seat on the bench, deciding the balance of the body.
  • So great was the shock that Clinton did not come out to her supporters' poll-watching party to concede defeat, but instead called Trump and sent her campaign chairman to insist in vain the result was too close to call.
  • "I want every person in this hall to know, and I want every person across the country who supported Hillary to know that your voices and your enthusiasm mean so much to her and to him and to all of us. We are so proud of you. And we are so proud of her," chairman John Podesta told shell-shocked supporters.
  • "She's done an amazing job, and she is not done yet," he insisted.
  • Musician Lagy Gaga stages a protest against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on a sanitation truck outside Trump Tower in New York City after midnight on election day November 9, 2016.
  • A street performer dressed as the Statue of Liberty hold photos of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China November 9, 2016, after Trump won the presidency.
  • A "Naked Cowboy" performer supporting Donald Trump walks through Times Square in New York, November 9, 2016.
  • People react as they watch news on a screen to follow the results of the final day of the US presidential election at an event organised by the American consulate in Shanghai on November 9, 2016.
  • Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march peacefully through Oakland, California.
  • A separate group earlier in the night set fire to garbage bins and smashed multiple windows.
  • Police officers chase a group of about 50 protesters.
  • University of California, Davis students protest on campus in Davis, California.
  • An invitee places a cookie depicting U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on a table at the US presidential election results watch party at the residence of US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, in Tokyo.

Mr Lee said much work and compromise had gone into the 12 TPP member countries reaching an agreement, and it would not be easy to negotiate a new deal with different conditions.

The TPP can go into force only if it is approved by six countries that account for at least 85 per cent of the group's economic output - which means ratification by both the US and Japan is essential.

But ratification by the US now seems unlikely, in view of Mr Trump's opposition to it.

At a TPP leaders' meeting on Saturday, Mr Obama had said he will continue to raise awareness of the agreement's importance back home.

The leaders of the other 11 TPP countries had also said they will push ahead with the deal.

"We will see how the Americans decide... and if in fact after two years they do not take it forward, we will examine our options again. We still have some time," said Mr Lee.


This article was first published on November 22, 2016.
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