Singapore’s state-controlled media is currently on a propaganda overdrive highlighting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to US. PM Lee met up with outgoing President Obama and the two gave a speech assuring their commitment to the US-led Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP).
Although the Singapore Press Holding drummed up the event, many observers commented that President Obama is just entertaining Lee Hsien Loong in his free time and his commitments to TPP are non-binding because the former will leave his office by January 2017. The two Presidential nominee, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, has already told their voters in their respective political election race that they will reject the TPP.
President Obama skirted around the TPP issue and chose not to give a commitment what his successor might do:
“The politics around trade can be very difficult — especially in an election year. There are legitimate concerns and anxieties that the forces of globalization are leaving too many people behind — and we have to take those concerns seriously and address them.”
PM Lee Hsien Loong however attempted to influence US politics and pressure the US government by entrapping them:
“For America’s friends and partners, ratifying the TPP is a litmus test of your credibility and seriousness of purpose. Every one of the TPP signatories has had to make sacrifices in order to accept the TPP agreement, and jointly bring about this win-win outcome.”
The TPP is a free trade agreement (FTA) between 12 countries excluding China. However, as Singapore alone has also a FTA with China, it will benefit the most from both the US and China. PM Lee Hsien Loong is trying to ride on the lucrative trade between US and China, by becoming the middleman between the two superpowers. Other TPP members who also have FTA with China includes, Australia and New Zealand. The other members who do not have FTA with China will have to go through these 3 countries to avoid paying taxes.
Economically, the TPP will benefit the rich, import cheap labour from the less wealthy members like Chile, Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam, export jobs to these countries and worsen the income-gap. Income inequality and anti-establishment are already key campaigning issues in the US presidential race.
Singapore will likewise face a further influx of cheap foreign labour but the upsides for Singaporeans is that there will be a Minimum Wage and Singaporean employees can now have better employment opportunities overseas. The low income and poor who cannot emigrate will be the hardest hit from TPP.