U.S.-Singapore FTA talks drag on as Zoellick meets Goh.SINGAPORE, Nov. 18 Kyodo
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Monday met Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong Goh Chok Tong, 1941–, prime minister of Singapore (1990–2004). After holding government and business positions, he was elected to Singapore's parliament in 1976 and served in the cabinet and People's Action party leadership from 1979. and Trade Minister George Yeo separately on a trip aimed at hammering out final details of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
A Singapore official told Kyodo News on Monday evening that officials from the two countries are still negotiating the FTA and that it was difficult to gauge if they could conclude the talks before Zoellick leaves Singapore on Tuesday.
A short statement from Goh's office merely said that Goh and Zoellick, who arrived here Sunday, ''exchanged views on the progress in the negotiations'' during a 45-minute meeting.
It said they also discussed regional developments, especially the momentum towards free trade arrangements between Association of Southeast Asian Nations Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), organization established by the Bangkok Declaration (1967), linking the nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. (ASEAN ASEAN: see Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
in full Association of Southeast Asian Nations
International organization established by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand in ) countries and their major trading partners.
Trade negotiators from the United States have been in Singapore since Nov. 11 for the 11th round of talks to thrash out differences that have delayed the sealing of an FTA with Singapore.
Singapore had expressed hope that an agreement could be reached at this round of talks.
The main points of contention appear to center on Washington's demand for greater access to Singapore's financial services, where the city-state's retail banking sector is still protected from foreign competition, and also the legal services legal services n. the work performed by a lawyer for a client. , where lawyers working in foreign firms are barred from offering advice on local law.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Goh announced in November 2000 that the two countries would launch negotiations for an FTA, which would be Washington's first with an Asian country.
Singapore has already concluded FTA negotiations with Australia, New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. , Japan and the European Free Trade Association, which is an arrangement consisting of Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
It is still negotiating with Canada and Mexico. Recently, Singapore, New Zealand and Chile also announced the launch of negotiations for a trilateral FTA.
Singapore was the 11th largest external trading partner of the U.S. last year, while the U.S. was Singapore's second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to almost US$40 billion.
Singapore also hosts some 1,500 U.S. companies and more than 17,000 U.S. citizens.
According to U.S. data, the elimination of duties on Singapore's exports to the U.S. would result in savings of US$110 million annually for Singapore exporters selling their products to the U.S. and boost Singapore exports there by 7% annually, or just over 40% in five years.
It would also help to jack up Singapore's gross domestic product by at least 0.7 percentage point, and create over 50,000 new jobs in five years.