- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Singaporean deal praised

The new U.S.-Singaporean free-trade deal is the “jewel in the crown” of the countries’ bilateral relations, Singaporean Ambassador Chan Heng Chee said as she celebrated Singapore’s National Day.

Mrs. Chan said the trade pact, which won final congressional passage last week, is the best news Singapore has had this year.

“This is welcome news. It comes at a time when the first six months of the year have not been easy for Singapore,” she told guests at the National Day reception Saturday at the Singaporean Embassy.

The war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic helped push Singapore’s economic growth dramatically below predictions. Singapore’s growth is expected to linger between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent, instead of the 2 percent to 5 percent rate predicted before the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome killed tourism and other business sectors.

“We estimate that SARS shaved at least 1 percent off our growth rate,” Mrs. Chan said. “We expect next year the figures will be stronger.”

The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is the “jewel in the crown for the year’s achievements in bilateral relations,” she said.

President Bush and Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong signed the pact in May. The Senate approved the deal by a 66-32 vote last week. The House passed the agreement by a vote of 272-155 July 24.

The deal lifts all tariffs on U.S. consumer and industrial goods to Singapore. The two countries had $33 billion in trade last year, making Singapore the United States’ 11th largest trading partner.

Mrs. Chan also reiterated Singapore’s strong commitment to the war on terrorism and noted that her city-state had sent a small contingent of police to Baghdad to help train an Iraqi police force.

“Singapore is making an important contribution to reconstruction in Iraq,” added Alan P. Larson, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs.

Mr. Larson, also speaking at the National Day ceremony, called the trade pact a “gold-standard type of agreement.”

“It is comprehensive. It is going to create jobs in Singapore and the United States, and it’s going to be an anchor … for broader trade expansion across the Asia-Pacific region,” he told the National Day reception.

Russia, Japan featured

The National Press Club today is featuring Russian and Japanese officials in separate news conferences to highlight a new Russian television service and Japanese economic developments.

Vladimir Ananich, president and chief producer of the Russian World TV Channel (VKT-R) leads off the afternoon at 3 p.m. to discuss his plans to bring Russian television to the Washington area.

Russian programming will be featured on MHz, broadcast channels 53 and 56, beginning Aug. 15. MHz is an independent public television station, which features news broadcasts from 25 countries.

At 6 p.m., Heizo Takenaka, Japan’s minister for financial services and economic and fiscal policies, discusses his meetings in Washington with presidential adviser Stephen Friedman, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and William H. Donaldson, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Public diplomacy

Jim Nicholson, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, did not have to think twice to answer a 13-year-old girl from Texas who asked, “What’s the hardest thing about being an ambassador?”

Mr. Nicholson’s answer: public diplomacy.

“Explaining the American people, that we are a benevolent, generous people, a compassionate people and that our strength and wealth come from our values,” he told Danielle Oliver, who was on a field trip to Italy last month with her classmates from the Hockaday School in Dallas.

Merrie Spaeth, who was director for media relations under President Reagan, accompanied the girls and recounted an exchange she wrote in a dispatch for United Press International.

“His comments underscored that even those in our small group are ambassadors for the United States,” she wrote.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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