TPP 'no-brainer' for US core interests

WASHINGTON - Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam stressed the importance of successfully concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement when he called on three key United States lawmakers on Wednesday.

The 12-nation pact is facing resistance in the US Congress, where lawmakers are unwilling to grant fast-track trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama.

Without such authority, the White House's negotiating position is weakened as any potential deal could be subject to amendments by Congress and could get stuck in the legislature.

Trade has been a key issue for Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, on this visit.

He has emphasised on multiple occasions the considerable boost a successful TPP would have on the US economy. For instance, he told the audience at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum on Tuesday that the growing importance of Asia as an economic force meant that the TPP should be a "no-brainer" for US core interests.

"If the US does not have the TPP, it will be a big loss to the US. Meanwhile, other trading arrangements are coming into play, like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Asia-Pacific-wide FTA (FTAAP).

"The importance of the TPP to the US is recognised by a broad cross section of thinkers and business people here," he said.

During Mr Shanmugam's meetings on Wednesday with Senators Jeff Flake, Ted Cruz and Tim Kaine, the men also reaffirmed the strong US-Singapore ties and the links Singapore had with the home states of the senators.

Singapore companies such as Keppel AmFels and ST Engineering have created jobs in Texas and Virginia, the states represented by Mr Cruz and Mr Kaine respectively. Meanwhile, Mr Flake's home state of Arizona hosts the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Peace Carvin II F-16 detachment.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released yesterdaysaid: "Minister Shanmugam and the senators expressed confidence in deepening cooperation between the two countries and their respective states.

"They also discussed regional and international developments, including the importance of bringing ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to a successful conclusion."

Separately, Mr Shanmugam also met US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Among other things, the two men committed to enhancing cooperation in law enforcement and homeland security.

This article was published on May 16 in The Straits Times.

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