Us Asean Business Council Essay

8561 words - 34 pages

Singapore is the largest U.S. trading partner within ASEAN, and is the largest destination within the ten-country grouping for U.S. direct investment. Singapore is the tenth largest U.S. export market worldwide. With a population of four million, Singapore purchases one and a half times more U.S. exports than China, four times more than India, and more than most European markets, including Italy, Switzerland, and Spain. At the end of 1999, U.S. direct investment in Singapore stood at more than US$24 billion, primarily in high-tech manufacturing and services industries.Beyond the direct beneficial impact a bilateral agreement will have on the parties to it, we believe the FTA will serve as an important building block for wider initiatives, such as the P-5, a US-ASEAN FTA and a new WTO round, and serve as a model for these and other possible Bilateral FTAs. The announcement of the opening of negotiations between Chile and the US on an FTA is directly attributable to the movement on USSFTA. These two sets of negotiations, along with Singapore's FTA initiatives with Australia and New Zealand, bodes particularly well for the future of a P-5 Agreement.The USSFTA will serve as a precedent on many trade issues. Care should be taken to ensure it is a first-class model. In part because of the strategic impact that we hope an FTA Singapore will have on the U.S. trade agenda, we are concerned about efforts to include in the FTA binding labor and environment provisions. The inclusion of such measures in trade agreements is a highly controversial subject. We urge the USTR to work with business to find a workable position on this issue that will lead to bi-partisan agreement and eventual passage in Congress.Specific to the substantial direct potential benefits of a USSFTA, there are several issues that our member companies hope will be addressed in the negotiations.Banking. With regard to licensing, Singapore currently imposes significant restrictions on the number of foreign banks that are permitted to engage fully in domestic retail activities. Most foreign banks operate under a restricted bank license under which they cannot accept deposits of less than S$ 250,000. Furthermore, restricted banks are limited to one office. Off premise ATM's are considered branches, and hence restricted as well. Singapore should remove quantitative limits on the number of US owned-banks that may obtain and operate as fully licensed banks, i.e. domestic treatment.With regard to services, foreign credit and charge card issuers are prohibited from participating in the local bank ATM networks. This prevents many local customers of foreign card issuers from obtaining cash advances and all local customers of foreign banks from direct access to their accounts for cash withdrawals, transfers or bill payments at ATMs operated by banks other than their own. This significantly handicaps those foreign institutions that do not have a full banking license because of the restrictions on...

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