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Regional integration key to better standards of living: Lim Hng Kiang

Trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will help Singapore create more jobs and provide a higher standard of living, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang says.

SINGAPORE: Regional economic integration is imperative to Singapore, and multilateral trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will help the city-state create more jobs, raise real wages and provide a higher standard of living, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said on Friday (Aug 15).

Speaking at a treasury forum organised by Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC), Mr Lim said jobs and growth are at the heart of the free trade agreements that are currently being negotiated.

The financial sector, which contributes 12 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) and hires more than 180,000 professionals, is a good example of how Singapore has benefited from an open global trading system, he added, citing the presence of more than 100 foreign banks on the island.

Citing the TPP, Mr Lim said the talks aim to go beyond traditional trade issues like tariff elimination to address challenges faced by businesses today, such as the free flow of information across borders and making coherent the many regulatory frameworks that confronts businesses belonging to the global supply network.

Gains from such trade agreements are not without cost, but Mr Lim said he remained confident that parties involved will value the strategic importance of these agreements, and endure the short-term pain of reform in exchange for long-term benefits. 

The TPP negotiations currently involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, which together account for about 40 per cent of global GDP.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), another trade initiative cited by Mr Lim, groups the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with six Free Trade Agreement partners including Australia and China. Mr Lim says such integration will help Singapore businesses, by reducing costs and facilitating participation in global supply chains.

"With the TPP and RCEP, the (financial) industry can also look forward to new market-opening opportunities in the region, which will at the same time not depart from preserving the right of financial regulators to take actions necessary in ensuring the stability and integrity of the financial markets," he said.

As the region integrates, Singapore is seen as being well-positioned to take advantage of Asian growth prospects.

Said Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy: "If this region continues to grow and develop, it'll need a global city to service it. You cannot create a global city overnight."

"Singapore has spent 50 years developing one of the world's best global cities. It's geographically in the best position to take advantage of Asian growth."

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