The U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may end up falling apart if it is renegotiated, Singapore’s premier warned an audience in Washington, D.C. Monday.
Domestic populism in the United States has raised fears that the TPP, a U.S.-led agreement whose members, including Singapore, currently represent roughly 40 percent of global GDP and one third of world trade, may not be approved before the end of the Obama administration. With the two presidential candidates opposing the pact in its current form, some have feared that it may not only be delayed past the lame duck session of the U.S. Congress but also even reopened for negotiations.
But Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cautioned this week during his visit to the United States that any attempt to renegotiate the pact risks leading to its failure.
“Nobody wants to reopen the negotiations,” he said. “Nobody wants to reopen the process with no prospect of doing better and every chance of it falling apart,” Lee told an event co-hosted by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Lee called the TPP an “economic game changer” for the United States, with its effects on market access, exports as well as strong standards across a range of areas. He also noted the strategic benefits of the pact, which would be a boost for the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, proof of America’s credibility in the region, and an important step towards shaping the norms of global trade and trading arrangement.
“With the TPP, you are part of the game,” Lee argued.
Though he said he understood the reasons for some domestic opposition to the pact among the American people, he said he hoped that actors would keep the broader strategic picture in mind.
“We hope that all parties will focus on the long-term big picture,” he said.
Meanwhile, Obama officials say they are still bent on getting the pact to the finish line. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who introduced Lee at the event Monday, stressed that the Obama administration remained committed to securing bipartisan support for the TPP.
Obama himself said in a written interview with The Straits Times this week that he was personally committed to TPP, which he called “a good deal,” and that in spite of the difficult politics around trade, Congress “will ultimately support” the deal.