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Shanmugam pushes for speedy conclusion to TPP

Singapore's Foreign Minister and Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, is in Washington DC this week as part of the third Singapore-US Strategic Dialogue.

WASHINGTON DC: Singapore's Foreign Minister and Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, is in Washington DC this week as part of the third Singapore-US Strategic Dialogue.

Meetings with key US senators, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General are all on his agenda for the five-day visit.

On Monday, Mr Shanmugam held talks with John Kerry at the US State Department where he pressed home the need for a speedy conclusion to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

Following President Obama's trip to the Asia Pacific in April, the trip by Mr Shanmugam is a good way for the administration to cement its rebalancing towards Asia.

It wants to use the visit as a forum to discuss several key issues affecting the region, including the ongoing TPP negotiations, and the continuing territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.

The disputes in particular were something Mr Kerry wanted to raise during his brief press call with Mr Shanmugam -- in particular highlighting China's decision to place an oil rig near the disputed Paracel Islands last week, something also highlighted at the ASEAN meeting in Nay Pyi Taw.

Mr Kerry said: "We want to see a code of conduct created; we want to see this resolved peacefully through the Law of the Sea, through arbitration, through any other means, but not direct confrontation and aggressive action."

Meanwhile, Mr Shanmugam was keen to highlight the business ties between America and Singapore, saying they have similar ideas on a range of issues, and he hopes to develop their economic relationship during this visit.

He said: "Today, 560,000 American jobs are dependent on exports to ASEAN alone, and ASEAN attracts nearly US$200 billion of investments, the largest in all of Asia. One in three American jobs are dependent on exports to Asia.

"Thus, the TPP has tremendous economic consequences for the US and for our region, and I hope to speak with Secretary Kerry and others on the importance of making substantial progress, which is the President's determination."

Mr Shanmugam's meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry is just the first of a series of engagements that he has here in the US capital. He will also be meeting with the US Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as a series of key US senators including Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake and Chris Murphy.

He will also be attending the third US-Singapore Strategic Dialogue, and give a keynote speech at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum. 

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