New US trade tariffs are sign of 'worrying times' for S'pore: ESM Goh

The new trade tariffs imposed by the US and the subsequent jostling among countries for exemptions are a sign of "worrying times for Singapore", Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Sunday.

In a Facebook post, he shared his thoughts on the tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, and posted a link to a Sunday Times report on how nations have begun vying for exemptions from the levies.

Noting this is an indication of "a major change in the international trade order", Mr Goh said: "It is bad for the world, and especially for countries like Singapore, which depend on trade and an open economic environment."

US President Donald Trump sparked a global outcry and fears of a trade war when he announced plans for a 25 per cent tariff on US imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminium to protect the country's producers.

He signed the proclamations on the tariffs last week.

But while the tariffs are being imposed on US allies, they are able to negotiate for exemptions or lower tariffs, Mr Goh said.

Mr Trump granted exemptions to Canada and Mexico, before extending a waiver to Australia. Soon after, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Argentina and Europe clamoured for similar treatment, while Chinese producers called on Beijing to retaliate.

This jostling prompted Mr Goh to note: "The US is like a heavyweight sumo wrestler browbeating wrestlers of lighter weight."


He said if the US succeeds with its strong-armed bilateral negotiation, other big countries may follow suit.

"In a world where, as Lee Kuan Yew once said, 'Big fish eats small fish, small fish eats shrimps', these are worrying times for Singapore."

He said that is why Singapore and 10 other countries have signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to keep international trade open and rules-based.