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 November 17, 2000
US-ASEAN Businesses Council Ready to Work for U.S.-Singapore FTA

 The US-ASEAN Business Council today applauded the agreement between President Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to pursue negotiations on a U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The two leaders agreed to the negotiations on the sidelines of the Asia-PacificEconomic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Brunei on November 16, 2000.

"This is a strategic decision by our two countries," said Ernest Z. Bower, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council. "It is vital to our economic interests that we pursue these agreements. The Clinton-Goh announcement sends two timely and important signals: first, that the U.S. will remain engaged in Southeast Asia at a time when doubts continue to be raised about our commitment to this part of the world; and second, that the momentum for opening trade will be continued in the Pacific."

Bower noted that bilateral FTAs can support the broader process of multilateral trade liberalization under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), APEC and the World Trade Organization (WTO). "This is a complement to, not an alternative to, multilateral trade negotiations," he added.

Singapore is the largest U.S. trading partner within ASEAN, and is the largest destination within the ten-country grouping for U.S. direct investment. Last year, two-way trade between the U.S. and Singapore reached US$34 billion, double the figure of the early 1990s. Singapore is the tenth largest U.S. export market worldwide, and with a population of three million, takes in more U.S. exports than China, four times more than India, and more than many European markets, including Italy, Switzerland, and Spain.

At the end of 1999, U.S. direct investment in Singapore stood at more than US$24 billion, primarily in high-tech manufacturing and services industries. This is an increase of more than 500% since the beginning of the 1990s.

Over the past several months, there have been a number of efforts in the United States Congress to move on a U.S.-Singapore FTA. In late October, Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives for a U.S.-Singapore FTA, while earlier in the year, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Phil Crane (R-IL) also introduced a bill that directs the President to initiate free trade agreement consultations with "eligible" Pacific Rim countries and singles out Singapore as a prime candidate.

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It comprises ten countries, 500 million people, and has a gross domestic product of $750 billion. ASEAN member countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.