- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The United States is close to finalizing a free-trade agreement with Singapore, the first with an Asian nation.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Singapore's Trade Minister George Yeo announced the pact in Singapore yesterday.
"I'm delighted to announce that Singapore and the United States have completed the substance of the free-trade agreement we have been negotiating, except for one issue," Mr. Zoellick said during a press conference.
The one issue Singapore wants to be able to limit the free transfer of capital during an economic or financial crisis would be a deal-breaker if not solved. "I believe we should be able to resolve this in good time," Mr. Yeo said.
The tentative deal with Singapore eliminates all tariffs on goods, grants new market access for U.S. banking, securities and insurance firms, gives access to Singapore's telecommunications network and offers strong intellectual property protections, according to Mr. Zoellick's office.
The two countries traded almost $33 billion in goods last year; Singapore is the United States' 11th-biggest trading partner.
The Singapore pact is the first since Mr. Bush won trade-promotion authority from Congress in August.
Mr. Zoellick began a trip through the Far East last week in Australia, where he formally announced the start of free-trade talks with that country. He is scheduled to be in the Philippines today to discuss the administration's Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, a proposal for a series of bilateral-trade agreements with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The United States is negotiating separate bilateral free-trade agreements with Chile, five nations in Central America, Morocco, and the South African Customs Union's five members, which include South Africa. Also on the trade agenda are the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a hemispherewide pact, and a new round of World Trade Organization talks.
"We're trying to do it globally, regionally and bilaterally," Mr. Zoellick said.
The United States is also working with Russia to open up trade opportunities. Commerce Department officials yesterday wrapped up trade talks with agreements that grant new formulas for Russian steel exports, potentially opening the door for more Russian sales to the United States.
The tentative Singaporean agreement is the first since the White House won trade-promotion authority from Congress in August. The authority allows the executive branch of government to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for a yes-or-no vote.
Mr. Zoellick said the final legal draft of the agreement should be ready this year. Under trade-promotion authority, the administration would then have to notify Congress of the agreement, sign it and submit it to Congress for consideration.


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