SINGAPORE: Asia-Pacific economies are one step closer to sealing a multilateral free trade agreement.
Leaders from nine economies have agreed on the broad terms for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and they have set an ambitious target of eight months to finalise it.
The agreement was reached on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the TPP is an additional “safety raft” for APEC economies, with Europe mired in a debt crisis.
For Singapore, it’ll provide another avenue for growth.
Leaders of the nine APEC economies have described the TPP as a “comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement” that addresses new trade issues in the 21st century.
The TPP is broader in scope, as compared with a traditional Free Trade Agreement #FTA#.
It also has a new set of what is termed as “cross-cutting commitments” – which aims at reducing costs, promoting seamless trade flows and getting more small- and medium-sized enterprises to take part in international trade.
For Singapore, it offers a competitive advantage.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “When you are in an FTA, it gives you more assured access and better access into the markets, in this case America, Japan, Australia, Malaysia. You have different benefits. You can have benefits in terms of rules which are favourable to us. You can have benefits in terms of the tariffs, which could be lower, and therefore an advantage competing against other countries which are not within the FTA and have to face higher hurdles getting into that market.
“That means our products are more competitive and more exports from our producers from Singapore. We hope the