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TPP tops US treasury secretary's Asia visit agenda

2013-11-14 08:26 Xinhua Web Editor: qindexing

Visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew obviously tried to push for the conclusion of the talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of the year on his visit to Asian countries.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Singapore Treasury, Lew said he discussed the important role the TPP "could have on growth and jobs for our two nations and for the region."

"We discussed our shared objectives to conclude the TPP negotiations this year," he said.

The TPP is a comprehensive but controversial free trade agreement that encompasses demanding rules on not only trade and economy, but also issues such as labor, environment and state- owned enterprises. It has also been criticized for the secretive talks.

Singapore is the second leg of Lew's visit to Asia. He also visited Japan and is expected to visit Malaysia and Vietnam, too, before going to China.

Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore are all participants in the TPP talks.

CNBC on Wednesday also quoted Lew as saying in an interview that he made a "strong case" for a need to reach an agreement on the TPP before the end of the year.

While in Singapore, Lew said that Southeast Asia is a critical part of the global economy and that "it's very important to the United States."

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he and Lew had a productive discussion.

"We're pleased that the United States continues to build on its strategic engagement in Asia. Secretary Lew's visit to Singapore testifies to America's continued active involvement in the region, " he said.

Tharman said they intend to raise standards of investor protection for businesses and strengthen the financial services sector.

"Of course the eventual TPP package will have to provide an overall balance of benefits for all participants. So we look forward to a mutually beneficial TPP agreement based on an overall assessment and balance of benefits," he added.

Singapore will be hosting the next TPP ministerial meeting in December this year.

The Singapore finance minister also said that in Asia there is "a very important priority of preparing for the eventual normalization of global interest rates" or the tapering of the Fed 's loose monetary policy.

"At some point it's going to have to taper, and it's important for all of us to start preparing for this eventuality. And that means putting in place domestic reforms in all our countries," he said.

Lew also met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who welcomed the United States' commitment to continue deepening its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, local broadcaster Channel NewAsia said.

On his visit to Japan earlier, Lew also urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to press ahead with the "third arrow" of a three-pronged strategy to revive the Japanese economy that focuses on long-term structural reforms.

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