Success or failure of issues in US-China trade talks greatly impacts Singapore

395
Photo: You Tube screengrab

U.S. and Chinese bureaucrats hope to arrive at a favorable agreement as trade negotiations are underway with the commencement of the 3-month long armistice between the two countries.

During the trade talks, several issues are being placed on the drawing board, issues that can readily and significantly impinge on Singapore’s economic, social, and political life.

A prickly issue during the dialogue is on intellectual property and sensitive technology. The U.S. accuses China of forcing American firms to share sensitive technology and steal intellectual , an allegation which could make or break any potential deal. The 3-month negotiations will focus on “structural changes” on how China handles technology transfers, intellectual-property protection, cybertheft and other issues.

Whatever is the outcome of the negotiations, most especially on IP-related talks, will greatly impact Singapore considering the country’s close ties with China and to its strict protection laws regarding intellectual property.

“There’s a stronger compliance culture in Singapore than other countries,” says Mark Parsons, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells. He points out that it’s common to hand over ID cards when entering office buildings in Singapore. “Organizations want to have stringent policies in place in terms of business partners trusting them with information.” Others attributed the practice to Singapore’s growing tech and startup sector, an area the government is aggressively promoting.

“If you are a tech company, especially a startup, you don’t want your ideas to walk out the door…..It’s jeopardizing your intellectual property,” says Ken Chia, principal at Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow in Singapore.

Other issues that can influence Singapore’s situation include the matter on  Agricultural imports where investors will be watching to see if China will take out retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products. Lifting the tariffs could encourage private buyers to immediately resume U.S. farm-product purchases. If talks fail, China may cancel some soybean orders and this could heavily affect Singapore considering that the country imports most of its food supplies.

Another issue is about Market access for banks as China pledged to increase access for foreign-owned financial firms. Other matters that the two countries will focus on include Energy, Auto tariffs, the Huawei Technologies, the “Made in China 2025” plan which aims to transform China into an advanced manufacturing leader by targeting 10 emerging sectors including robotics, clean-energy vehicles and biotechnology. On this issue, the White House contends that China’s state-led intervention violates WTO rules and could create an unfair playing field for foreign investors.