Singapore

PM Lee hopes US will see trade as a 'win-win'

Prime Minister lays out principles behind S'pore's policies on China, US

Singapore is good friends with China and America and this is the right position to take, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"Those in the foreign policy establishments will appreciate where we stand even though they may wish us to tilt towards one end or the other," he told 700 business leaders, academics and policymakers last night.

Mr Lee laid out the principles behind Singapore's foreign policy on both superpowers, in a 30-minute dialogue at the FutureChina Global Forum.

Having returned from the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Germany last weekend, he also gave his reading of global trade winds and the business opportunities Singapore can seize amid China's growth.

He recounted his meeting and "good discussion" with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit, during which they talked about bilateral issues and areas for cooperation, such as the large projects between both governments and in human resources.

China may be world class in many areas, but Singapore can still find niches in which to work with it, said Mr Lee at the forum organised by Business China, which aims to connect Singaporean and Chinese businesses and marks its 10th anniversary this year.

"I do not accept the principle that anything I can do, they can do better. The world is not like that," he said.

"If you are strong at something, you're relatively less strong at other things, and there are other centres of prosperity, ingenuity and energy in the world.

"It will be like that with China also."

NATURAL BASE

For instance, Singapore as a financial services hub is a natural base for infrastructure financing needed under China's Belt and Road initiative, he said, when asked to give advice to local businesses keen to get a piece of the action.

The Belt and Road proposed infrastructure network aims to create land and sea trade routes to link Asia with Europe and Africa.

Moderator and Business China board director Robin Hu noted that some observers saw it as China's attempt at creating a Chinese economy outside of China, making nations beholden to it.

Mr Lee replied that the Belt and Road was a constructive way for China to grow its place and influence in the world.

"It's win-win, linking to the countries around the region with infrastructure projects... in a way which enables the region to benefit from China's prosperity but at the same time to maintain the region's links with the rest of the world," he said.

As for global trade, Mr Lee said: "We hope the US will... be prepared to see that trade is not win-lose, it's win-win. And you don't have to only do business one on one.

"You can do business with a group, or a regional union."

Both the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact without the US, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between Asean and six of its close partner countries, are still on the table, he said.

"I hope both will make progress. In the interests of Singapore, the region and the world," he added.

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