SINGAPORE: Singapore and the United States are to sign tomorrow a landmark free trade agreement expected to bolster Washington's economic and political ties with South-East Asia.
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong will sign the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the first between the Unitd States and an Asian country, with President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony.
The signing will come more than two years after then US president Bill Clinton and Goh discussed the idea of liberalising bilateral trade during a nocturnal golf game at an Asia-Pacific summit in Brunei in November 2000.
Singapore will eliminate tariffs on US exports and ease conditions for entry by American professionals such as lawyers, engineers and architects.
The city-state will open its market to US banks and firms focusing on the biomedical sciences, software, research and development and entertainment, in addition to traditional areas like headquarter services, manufacturing and logistics.
Singapore Trade Minister George Yeo said the FTA would also put special emphasis on high-tech concerns.
These include the protection of intellectual property and the rules of electronic commerce.
With most of the city-state's exports to the United States already subject to low tariffs, analysts said the biggest benefit for Singapore is that it will be positioned as a gateway for US investments into South-East Asia, a combined market of 550 million people.
Around 1,300 US companies have a presence here, many of them regional headquarters.
Politically, Singapore is one of Washington's staunchest Asian allies in the war against terrorism and the Iraq campaign. – AFP
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