U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Pact Comes Into Effect Jan. 1

By Agence France-Presse A free-trade agreement between Singapore and the United States, Washington's first with an Asian country, will come into force on Jan. 1, 2004, the Singapore trade ministry said. The agreement is expected to start a sweeping liberalization of trade in goods and services and enhance the protection of intellectual property rights. Both nations have completed the legal and administrative requirements to implement the accord, signed in May between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, the trade ministry said in a statement. >From Jan. 1, 78.7% of Singapore goods will immediately enjoy duty-free entry into the United States, rising to 92% within four years. All U.S. goods entering Singapore will be duty-free with immediate effect. Singapore also will further open up its economy to American companies. Initial estimates show the island-state will save between 200 million and 300 million Singapore dollars (US$118 million and US$176 million) as a result. "Together with enhanced investor protection, ease of entry and operation for investors and improved commitments in the services industries, the [agreement] will make it more attractive for U.S. companies to invest in Singapore," the trade ministry said. "Similarly, the [agreement] will make it easier for Singapore-based companies, including [small and medium enterprises], to invest in the U.S." Raymond Lim, Singapore's minister of state for foreign affairs and trade and industry, has said the FTA will boost Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.5%. He said the agreement also is likely to encourage hundreds of American companies to open regional offices in Singapore and use the city-state as a springboard for expansion into the Asian market. There are already 1,300 American companies and 15,000 U.S. nationals in Singapore, where private U.S. investment is estimated at more than US$27 billion. Two-way trade is estimated at $34 billion. Singapore's free-trade pacts with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the European Free Trade Association have already entered into force. Discussions, now at various stages, are underway with India, South Korea, Jordan, Canada and Sri-Lanka, among others. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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