Singapore PM warns U.S. credibility at risk in TPP deal

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Kicking off his visit to Washington, D.C., Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned the United States’ credibility is at risk if the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is not enacted.

Lee on Monday called the trade pact an “economic game changer” which adds “substance to America’s engagement in the Asia Pacific” region.

The TPP has been signed by 12 Pacific Rim nations, notably excluding China, but has not been ratified by all signatories.

In the United States it faces a tough ratification process. While President Barack Obama endorses the TPP, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump supports it, and the Republican-led Congress has no plans to introduce the TPP for consideration until after the November election, if at all. Delegates at last week’s Democratic National Convention were loudly opposed to the deal, believing it would hurt U.S. job growth.

“For America’s friends and partners, ratifying the TPP is a litmus test of your credibility and seriousness of purpose. Every one of the TPP signatories has had to make sacrifices in order to accept the TPP agreement, and jointly bring about this win-win outcome,” Lee told a reception sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

The pact is designed to counter growing Chinese economic power, and the 12 countries involved, including Singapore, account for 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and a market of 800 million people.

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Obama told the Singapore Straits Times in an interview Monday, “I know that the politics around trade can be very difficult, especially in an election year.”

“There are legitimate concerns and anxieties that the forces of globalization are leaving too many people behind, and we have to take those concerns seriously and address them. The answer isn’t to turn inward and embrace protectionism. We can’t just walk away from trade. In a global economy where our economies and supply chains are deeply integrated, it’s not even possible.”

Although Obama may be able to offer few assurances to Lee regarding the TPP, other issues will be on the schedule, notably mutual efforts to combat terrorism. Southeast Asia is the site of known Islamist organizations. The White House will also present a black-tie state dinner Tuesday in Lee’s honor.

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