U.S.-Singapore Leaders Talk Economics, Trade
Last week’s visit to the White House by Singapore’s prime minister made headlines with President Obama’s comments on the presidential election, particularly his assessment of Republican nominee Donald Trump, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his side.
But the meeting between the two leaders was actually replete with diplomatic and economic significance. The talks marked 50 years of diplomatic relations relations between the two countries, for one thing.
A joint statement released in the aftermath of the meeting noted that the U.S. and Singapore share economic priorities that “embrace trade liberalization, market reform, trade security, capacity building, innovation, entrepreneurship, climate change mitigation, clean energy, intellectual property protection, fair labor practices, and cyber security.”
Over 3,700 U.S. companies are located in Singapore and a growing number of Singapore companies have also established themselves in the United States.
The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement was the first such U.S. agreement in Asia and is now in its twelfth year. Both heads of government called for the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by all signatories. The two leaders also welcomed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to promote collaboration in the infrastructure sector between U.S. and Singapore companies in Southeast Asia and other markets.
The two countries also recently entered into an MOU on cooperation in the area of cybersecurity, which lays a foundation for expanding cooperation on cyber issues.
The leaders reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea. “They urged all parties to avoid actions that would escalate tensions,” according to the joint statement, “including the further militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.”
The meetings also addressed climate change and both sides supported a transitioning towards a low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development pathway. “They resolved to work together to implement the historic Paris Agreement,” said the statement. Singapore plans on ratifying the accord later this year. Ratification by the U.S. Congress is by no means assured.
The two leaders commended the adoption of the fifth plan of action in August 2015 under the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement’s environmental cooperation memorandum. The U.S. and Singapore committed to strengthen cooperation to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems by combating the illegal trade in species protected by the 1973 CITES treaty. The two countries also committed to work toward concluding an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) that eliminates tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.