US- Singapore Free Trade Agreement Signed
The FTA will bring to five the number of US free trade pacts; several more are being touted.
WASHINGTON, DC - President George Bush and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore have put their signatures on the new US -Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
If approved by Congress, the pact would make Singapore -- a city-state of 4 million people - the first nation in Asia to have a free trade pact with the US and effectively erase the tariffs and other trade barriers on about $33 billion in annual two-way trade.
In a joint statement, the two heads of state said they "hope the FTA would be a catalyst for trade liberalization and enhanced growth in the region and beyond," and "reaffirmed their commitment to achieving a successful outcome at the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations."
The text of the proposed agreement covers 800-plus pages and includes complete timetables for eliminating duties on bilateral trade, rules of origin for goods and the detailed schedules of commitments in services and investment, including financial services.
Bush - who called the agreement "a crucial step forward" for both countries - also reaffirmed his commitment to the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI), which he launched at APEC in 2002 with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The EAI establishes a roadmap to promote increased investment, economic growth, and free trade between the United States and ASEAN countries.
The agreement adds Singapore to the list of four countries that already have "free" trade relations with the US - Canada, Mexico, Israel, and Jordan.
Efforts to complete negotiations on an FTA with Chile have slowed, purportedly because of that country's criticism of the US-led war in Iraq, but Bush stated at a press conference that followed the signing of the Singapore FTA that it still remains a "priority."
The Administration has also entered into negotiations on a free trade agreement with five countries in southern Africa, and has announced the start of talks with five countries in Central America, as well as Morocco, and Australia.
Washington reportedly hopes such pacts will add momentum to the negotiations on a free trade agreement spanning every country in the Western hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba, and a new round of global trade talks between the 144 member countries that form the World Trade Organization.
Currently, Singapore is the US' 11th largest trading partner. But because Singapore already imposes few import tariffs, the main advantage to the United States in the agreement will be in greater access to Singapore's financial and service sectors.
"This free trade agreement will increase access to Singapore's dynamic markets for American exporters, service providers and investors," Bush said, urging Congress to act quickly to approve the agreement.
The entire text of the proposed US-Singapore FTA is available on the USTR's website at www.ustr.gov.
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