Screenshot of Facebook video - Lee Hsien Loong in Jakarta

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed his disappointment at newly-elected US President, Donald Trump, because the latter has announced that the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP) will be scrapped.

Speaking at a media interview in Jakarta after a meeting with Indonesia President Jokowi:

“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. I do not know what the new president’s position will be. 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.”

The TPP is an international trade deal involving 12 countries with details remaining secretive and privy to only the governments. It has been widely opposed by citizens of every member country because the pact will empower corporations to employ cheap labour and undercut salaries. The pact was initiated by US President Obama but the bill was not passed domestically and even in every member country except Singapore, where the ruling party PAP dominates the Parliament.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is pushing hard for the TPP to pass because the pact specifically excludes China, and he is trying to benefit from the China-Singapore trade pact by positioning himself as the middleman between the two superpowers. US President-to-be Donald Trump rejected the TPP in his election campaign and has signaled that he will enable trade directly with China.

The next TPP meeting will be held in Peru this week but the discussion is likely to wrap up the ending of TPP.

When queried if TPP can include China, PM Lee said no, claiming that “it is not so 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”. 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.”

As the likely scenario is that the TPP be scrapped, PM Lee lamented that he would pursue alternatives to the TPP:

“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.”