Statement by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher S. Wilson
on Behalf of the United States
July 26, 2016
The United States welcomes Singapore’s delegation headed by Permanent Secretary Loh, and we greet our valued colleagues from Singapore’s Geneva delegation headed by Ambassador Tan.
We have looked forward to today’s discussion because of our strong partnership with Singapore, its significant contributions to the global trading system, and because Singapore is a prominent example of trade’s benefits at a time when some stakeholders in some countries are questioning the benefits that international trade and engagement can bring.
Singapore’s importance as a trading nation surpasses its size and population. For the United States, Singapore is our 17th largest goods trading partner, with $50 billion in two-way goods trade. Singapore is our 19th largest services trading partner, with $21 billion in two-way services trade. Our bilateral FTA with Singapore, our first in Asia, has been in effect since 2004 and has led to a 50 percent increase in our two-way trade, significantly benefiting both our nations. The combined stock of our investment in each other’s countries is $200 billion.
Singapore’s openness is a defining characteristic. Its deep integration in the global economy has been an important driver of its economic growth and development. Despite external challenges during the time frame of this and previous reviews, Singapore’s economy continues to perform well, with economic growth averaging 3.6 percent, low inflation, and low unemployment. If we go back to 2004, the year that our bilateral FTA entered into force, Singapore’s per capita GDP has more than doubled from $26,000 in 2004 to $53,000 in 2015, making Singapore one of the most prosperous countries in the world. This is an impressive long-term economic performance, driven by trade.
We commend Singapore’s leadership on trade. As we are reminded in Geneva week after week, Singapore remains a champion of the multilateral trading system. During the time period of this review, Singapore has made important contributions to our work, including by promptly ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement, supporting the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, and working towards an Environmental Goods Agreement that has tremendous potential to make green technologies more affordable and accessible by eliminating tariffs on a wide range of environmentally friendly products. Singapore’s consistent approach to liberalizing trade through multilateral, regional, and bilateral initiatives has benefited its economy and those of its trading partners.
In the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, Singapore played an important leadership role in concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement that opens markets, addresses new and emerging issues in the regional and global economy, and sets important new regional and global standards in important areas such as worker rights, protecting the environment in trade agreements, and digital trade. We look forward to working with Singapore and our other TPP partners to implement this agreement as soon as possible. We also look forward to working with Singapore to advance broader regional economic integration through APEC and our U.S.-ASEAN initiatives.
During this review, we would welcome more information about Singapore’s experience and perspective in providing technical assistance to build the trade capacity of developing countries through its Third Country Training Programs. In the Government Report, Singapore notes the contributions of the Singapore-WTO Third Country Training Program, which is one of many similar collaborative training programs that Singapore has established with other developed country and international organization partners. This innovative approach appears to have many advantages, in that developed countries are able to leverage resources and beneficiaries are able to benefit from the expertise of multiple sponsors. We are very interested in working with Singapore to expand our cooperation on trade activities under the Singapore-United States Third Country Training Program, established in 2012.
The United States finds itself in the rather unusual position of bringing very little criticism to this TPR. In advance of this review, we provided a short list of questions to Singapore on several trade policy issues including policies related to intellectual property, legal services, and import licensing. We thank Singapore for its responses. During the discussion today, we are interested in learning more about the Committee on the Future Economy and its efforts to build human capital in Singapore and make the economy more resilient.
In a few days’ time, President Obama will host Prime Minister Lee at the White House for a visit to mark the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. This will be an opportunity for our two leaders to highlight the success and tremendous growth of our bilateral cooperation in all areas including trade and also reflects the closeness of our relationship and the high regard for which Singapore’s perspectives are held in Washington.
We wish Singapore a successful trade policy review and look forward to further cooperation with Singapore on all fronts–bilaterally, regionally, and here at the WTO.