SEMARANG, Indonesia: Singapore is “disappointed” that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement may not be ratified before US President-elect Donald Trump takes office, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Nov 14).
“We feel disappointed that the TPP looks very unlikely or will not be passed now, ratified now, before Jan 21 when the new president swears in,” said Mr Lee in a wrap-up interview with Singapore media after a leaders’ retreat with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
His comments came days after US President Barack Obama's administration suspended efforts to win congressional approval for the Asian free-trade deal.
“I do not know what the new president's position will be,” Mr Lee added, but he noted President-elect Trump had stated his position clearly during his campaign trail and that he had "no sympathy" for the TPP.
“I think that is disappointment for all of us who worked so hard to negotiate the TPP. But that is where it stands," said Mr Lee.
The 12 countries that signed the TPP will meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru this week to discuss the situation, he said.
Asked about the possibility of revising the terms of the deal to exclude the US and include countries such as China, Mr Lee said that would not be easy. “We spent five, six years negotiating the TPP. Finally we got this very elaborate, carefully balanced deal, several thousand pages of texts. It's not so easy to say 'We change the terms',” he said.
“What are you going to change? Who is going to give up more or less and what is the balance? And if you bring in a new country, it's a completely new deal all together. So effectively you'll be talking about a new exercise," Mr Lee added.
“Because a new country - particularly if it's a big one - it's not going to sign on to everything which has already been agreed before they were participants.”
Mr Lee pointed out that it is premature to pursue very definite alternative possibilities for now. “Let's first assess how everybody feels and what they think could be done as a practical, second-best or solution for the time being,” he said.