Opposition politicians chide PM Lee for stubbornly pressing on with the TPP

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Secretary-Generals of Singaporeans First and Singapore Democratic Party have both criticised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for stubbornly trying to push for the fruition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal despite clear signs that the United States of America (US) will not ratify it.

Mr Tan Jee Say of Singaporeans First (SF) suggested that Mr Lee should cut losses and move on without misleading Singaporeans. Mr Tan suggested that the Prime Minister should remove the advisers in his administration and think-tanks who had given him poor advice on the topic. He described such advisers as ‘cold war relics’.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, the secretary-general of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said that the TPP is more than a free trade agreement and is also a mechanism to check China’s rise. He cautioned that as both Obama and Trump has distanced themselves from TPP, China is scrutinising Singapore.
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The American President-Elect Donald Trump dealt a fatal death blow to the TPP early this morning. He said that he was going to issue a note of intent to withdraw from the trade deal on his very first day of formally taking office. While Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the pact would be meaningless without US participation.

Some analysts have suggested that TPP brings almost inconsequential economic benefits to Japan. Tim Harcourt, an economist with the University of New South Wales’ business school and former chief economist of the Australian Trade Commission said “the reason for the TPP from a Japanese point of view was that they wanted to show China that they had economic leadership of the Pacific.”

Just like Japan, the economic benefit for Singapore from the TPP is believed to be only incremental. Singapore already has 21 free trade agreements with all TPP-member-countries except Canada and Mexico.

The successful conclusion of TPP was however important to the Singapore government to cement its status as a global player, as it signals that the country is not a follower, but part of the decision-making community.

The TPP was also expected to give Singapore an edge over Hong Kong which was close ties with China.