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Singapore Plugs Its Pro-Free Trade Policies

by Mary Swire, Lowtax.net, Hong Kong
01 December, 2014

Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, emphasized Singapore's support for the development of its network of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), at the Asia-Pacific Trade Forum on November 24.

He noted that, since signing its first FTA under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area in 1993, Singapore's network of FTAs has since expanded to include 21 bilateral and regional FTAs in force with 32 trading partners. "Singapore's FTAs have been instrumental in helping Singapore-based businesses strengthen cross-border trade by eliminating or reducing import tariff rates, providing preferential access to services sectors, easing investment rules, improving intellectual property regulations, and opening government procurement opportunities," Lee said.

However, in the Asia-Pacific, the most talked about initiatives are regional – the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), between ASEAN and its FTA partners, and United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – both of which include Singapore.

RCEP and TPP are expected to be concluded during 2015. According to Lee, they "will serve as building blocks towards greater regional economic integration and an eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP)." Together, these two agreements already cover 56.5 percent of the global economy and 55.6 percent of the world's population.

He said: "The FTAAP holds the key to making the Asia-Pacific region more attractive and competitive, … [and that] it is no accident that RCEP and TPP memberships include key economies like the US, in the case of TPP, and China, in the case of RCEP. For Singapore, the US is our largest investor, and China is our largest trading partner."

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