Cablegate: Wto Trade Policy Review of Singapore, July 14 and 16,

R 211438Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY: WTO Members conducted the Trade Policy Review of
Singapore on July 14 and 16, 2008. Members expressed appreciation
for Singapore's open trade regime and were generally in agreement
that Singapore is a model actor in the WTO community. Members
encouraged Singapore to bind its remaining unbound tariffs, which
currently comprise 30 percent of its schedule. Members also
questioned Singapore's market access for certain services sectors,
including retail banking, legal services, ports and construction.
Members supported Singapore's recent enactment of a national
competition law and expressed support for Singapore's progress in
shifting government-linked companies to a purely commercial
orientation. END SUMMARY.


2. The Chairman of the TPR, Ambassador Mario Matus of Chile,
delivered the following statement:

3. "The fifth Trade Policy Review of Singapore has given us a much
clearer understanding of Singapore's trade policies and practices
together with the globalization challenges it faces. I thank Mr.
Ravi Menon, Second Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Trade and
Industry, and his delegation as well as the Discussant, Ambassador
Shinichi Kitajima of Japan and Members of the TPRB for contributing
to our informative and constructive exchange of views during these
two days. Singapore's response to the large number of questions is
much appreciated."

4. "Members noted that Singapore continues to be one of the most
open and competitive economies in the world. With trade a multiple
of GDP, Singapore remains committed to promoting a free, rules-based
multilateral trading system. Singapore continues to be a steadfast
supporter of an ambitious outcome in the Doha Round; it was
commended for its active participation in the NAMA and other
negotiating groups and for its efforts to move the negotiations
forward. Members also commended Singapore's contribution to the WTO
Aid-for-Trade initiative. Some Members shared Singapore's view that
WTO-consistent trade liberalization at regional and bilateral levels
can form building blocks for the multilateral trading system."

5. "Members congratulated Singapore on its strong overall economic
performance. Although its high degree of openness risks leaving
Singapore vulnerable to periodic external shocks, the economy's
flexibility had enabled Singapore to adjust relatively rapidly to
these shocks by improving productivity, for example by investing in
R&D, and thus contributing to economic growth. Singapore was
commended for creating and maintaining a highly competitive business
environment in which the unemployment rate has decreased to its
lowest level in a decade and inflows of foreign direct investment
are substantial. Some Members encouraged Singapore to address the
widening of income inequalities."

6. "Members noted that the scope of Singapore's tariff bindings
remained at around 70% of all lines, and that the bound rates were
substantially higher than the MFN applied rates; they urged
Singapore to both increase the coverage of its bindings and to lower
bound rates, thus narrowing the discrepancy between its bound and
applied rates. Members noted that Singapore's highly computerized
and trade-facilitating customs procedures result in substantial
benefits to both traders and government agencies. Singapore was
also commended for its policy of advocating the adoption of
international standards to facilitate market access and enterprise

7. "Members also noted the enactment of an economy-wide competition
law and expressed interest in Singapore's assessment of the economic
impact of the new law as well as of the functioning of the
Competition Commission. Members noted the trend towards government
linked corporations (GLCs) operating on the same basis as private
companies, significant divestments by Temasek, and the enhancement
of corporate governance regulation. Some Members noted Singapore's
wide-ranging improvements in the protection of intellectual property
rights as part of its broader effort to encourage innovation and
create a knowledge-based economy."

8. "Members also welcomed Singapore's liberalization efforts in
financial services, energy, and telecommunications. Some Members
encouraged Singapore to further liberalize services, including legal
and other professional services, banking, and port services."

9. "To conclude, I would again like to thank Singapore's delegation
for its efforts in helping us to better understand its trade and
trade-related policies and the domestic and international contexts
in which they evolve. I would once again also like to thank the
Discussant for his insightful comments, and Members for contributing
to what has been a very enlightening two days of discussions. As
the Discussant stated, Singapore has established a benchmark or a
text-book case where the rest of Members will have to follow. We
look forward to receiving responses to the remaining outstanding
questions within the next month."


10. The representative of the United States, Ambassador Peter
Allgeier, delivered the following statement:

11. "Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to participate
in Singapore's fifth Trade Policy Review not only because of
Singapore's longstanding support for the multilateral trading
system, but also because Singapore is such an important trading
partner. The U.S. delegation warmly welcomes Singapore's Mr. Ravi
Menon, Second Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and
Industry, and the rest of the visiting Singaporean delegation, as
well as Ambassador Karen Tan and the Geneva delegation. I would
also thank Ambassador Shinichi Kitajima for his valuable
contributions as discussant."

12. "The Secretariat's report is as informative and comprehensive as
always. The government of Singapore's report reminded us of your
commitment to an open trade policy."

13. "As we did in 2004, the United States applauds Singapore's
demonstrated commitment to opening markets for trade, development,
and economic opportunity. Singapore remains one of the most open
economies in the world and its consistent efforts to open markets
through multilateral, regional, and bilateral initiatives have
enhanced its own competitiveness and that of its trading partners.
As an open economy, Singapore, according to the government's report,
"has not been spared the challenges of globalisation, namely strong
competition from low-cost competitors, the transmission of external
demand and price shocks into the domestic economy, and increasing
wage dispersion and income inequality." But, rather than retreat
from competition, Singapore has embraced it by maintaining
macroeconomic stability, seeking higher value activities and
upgrading workers' skills, capitalizing on opportunities in new
growth industries, positioning the economy as a services hub, and
investing in research and development. The Secretariat further
highlights Singapore's "notable institutional change" to its
policy-making structure since its last review. In 2005, the
Competition Commission of Singapore was established, thereby
improving institutional transparency. As your government report
states so well, these reforms "have sharpened Singapore's
competitive edge and positioned it well to face the challenges posed
by globalisation and seize its opportunities." The principal
message for all of us from Singapore's TPR report is that the path
to success in the face of globalization is to figure out how to make
globalization work for our economies and citizens rather than to
pretend one can insulate oneself from these forces."

14. "Singapore's deep integration into the global economy has helped
it become a prosperous nation, with per capita GDP exceeding
US$35,000 in 2007. In that same year, Singapore's merchandise trade
was four times its GDP and inflows of foreign direct investment
accounted for the equivalent of one-sixth of GDP. By focusing on
private sector-driven R&D and innovation, Singapore's development
strategy has continued to shift from emphasis on using technology to
creating technology. This strategy is enviable. We wish Singapore
success in overcoming any accompanying wage and income challenges."

15. "Turning to our bilateral trade and investment relationship, we
are proud to point to the United States-Singapore Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) as the first comprehensive U.S. FTA with an Asian
nation. This FTA has been in force since January 1, 2004."

16. "Singapore - U.S. two-way trade in goods totaled $46 billion in
2007. In 2006, the United States was Singapore's second largest
export market taking roughly 11.5% of Singapore's exports. In that
same year, the United States was also Singapore's second largest
supplier with roughly 13 percent of its total imports coming from
the United States. Two-way trade in services was $10.5 billion in
2006. U.S. foreign direct investment to Singapore was $60 billion
in 2006, an increase of almost 11 percent from levels in 2005."

17. "In addition to our cooperative efforts in the WTO, the United
States and Singapore continue to join forces to promote trade and
intra-regional integration in Southeast Asia through both APEC and
ASEAN. Singapore, as host of APEC 2009, has indicated that it "will
seek to maintain the momentum on Regional Economic Integration in
APEC." We look forward to our work ahead to achieve APEC's

18. "The United States welcomes Singapore's stance that its trade
policy objective is "to promote a free, open, and stable
multilateral trading system". We agree wholeheartedly that
advancing global trade and investment liberalization and ensuring a
strong rules-based multilateral trading system is in Singapore's
vital interest and in the interest of the United States. We further
agree with the Singapore government that the WTO's rules-based
multilateral trading regime has brought greater predictability and
security to the conduct of trade among nations. Finally, we share
the view that the global trading system benefits from all
WTO-consistent efforts to pursue the maximum possible extent of
liberalization on the multilateral, regional and bilateral fronts."

19. "At the WTO, Singapore continues to be one of the most effective
advocates of, and role models for, global trade liberalization. The
United States may not agree with Singapore's position on all of the
Doha Development Agenda issues. Nonetheless, we applaud Singapore's
proactive approach to finding mutually beneficial solutions at
pivotal points in the negotiations. Earlier in the negotiations,
Minister Yeo urged Members to keep the Doha negotiations on track
because they were the best way to reap the benefits of trade
liberalization. He also urged Members to show greater respect for
one another's positions and find creative ways to accommodate
different interests. This is a message well worth recalling as we
approach the upcoming meetings of ministers and senior officials."

20. "Secretary Menon and Ambassador Tan, we wish you and your team a
successful review, and we look forward to further cooperation with
Singapore, both here at the WTO and in our bilateral exchanges."



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