Singapore-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

Order Code RS20755 Updated January 24, 2003 CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web Singapore-U.S. Free Trade Agreement Dick K. Nanto Specialist in Industry and Trade Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division Summary The United States and Singapore have completed negotiations on a free-trade agreement that would, with a phase-in period, eliminate tariffs on all goods traded between them, cover trade in services, and protect intellectual property rights. The agreement is expected to be submitted for legislative approval in late January 2003 with an implementation date in 2004. This report will be updated as circumstances warrant. In November 2002, the United States and Singapore concluded the eleventh round of negotiations on the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the hope of completing the agreement by year end. U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick stated that the substance of the FTA was done except for one issue (whether Singapore can place controls on the transfer of capital during a financial crisis) which was settled in January 2003. The USTR is expected to notify Congress of the agreement in late January 2003.1 The negotiations for the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement were launched under the Clinton Administration in December 20002 and have continued under the Bush Administration. The FTA would be the fifth such agreement the United States has signed and the first with an Asian country. As initiated, it was to be modeled after the U.S.-Jordan FTA and is to eliminate tariffs on all goods over time and cover substantially all services sectors. According to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the FTA has broken new ground in electronic commerce, competition policy, and government procurement. It also includes what the USTR considers to be major advances in intellectual property protection, environment, labor, transparency, customs cooperation, and transshipments.3 The U.S.-Singapore FTA is of interest to the Congress because: (1) it would require Congressional approval; (2) if implemented, it would continue the trend toward greater 1 Asean and the US-S’pore FTA. The Business Times Singapore, November 21, 2002. P. 1. 2 For information on U.S.-Singaporean relations, see CRS Report RS20490, Singapore: Background and U.S. Relations. 3 Rahil, Siti. U.S., Singapore Strike FTA Deal. Kyodo News Service, November 19, 2002. Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CRS-2 trade liberalization and globalization; (3) it contains environmental and labor conditions acceptable to the Bush White House; and (4) it may affect certain trade flows that would, in turn, affect U.S. businesses, particularly import-competing industries such as textiles and apparel. The U.S.-Singapore FTA may serve as a step toward realization of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s “Bogor Vision,”under which the United States and APEC’s other 21 members are working toward “free and open trade in the Pacific.” It also is in accord with the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, a new trade initiative with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in which the United States has offered the prospect of FTAs with those countries committed to economic reforms and openness. In March 2002, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of a U.S.-Singapore FTA Business Coalition with 75 members and chaired by Boeing, ExxonMobil, and UPS to support the FTA.4 On February 19, 2002, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) began investigating the probable economic effect of a U.S.-Singapore FTA (No. 332-439). On July 2, the ITC began investigation No. 332-443 into the effects of eliminating tariffs on certain agricultural goods under a U.S.-Singapore FTA. These reports have been submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative but are not open to the public. Background Singapore is a city state located in Southeast Asia at the southern tip of Malaysia and across the Strait of Malacca from Indonesia. It has a population of 3.5 million, an area roughly 3.5 times the size of the District of Columbia, gross domestic product of about $100 billion, and per capita income of about $30,500. Singapore has been a major proponent of trade liberalization and supports the U.S. security role in Asia. Singapore is America’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia with two-way trade of $32.6 billion and a U.S. bilateral merchandise trade surplus in 2001 of $2.7 billion, up from a deficit of $1.4 billion in 2000. The United States generally runs a surplus in services trade with Singapore. Singapore is the 11th largest export market for the United States with $17.7 billion in merchandise exports in 2001. It is the 14th largest source for goods imported into the United States with $15.0 billion in 2001. As shown in the Appendix, in bilateral trade by sectors, the United States runs surpluses with Singapore in aircraft, plastic, instruments, chemical products, and aluminum. The U.S. incurs deficits with Singapore in electrical machinery, knit and woven apparel, special other repaired products, organic chemicals, books and newspapers, fish and seafood, rubber, and ships and boats. Singapore already has 99% free trade. Only beer and certain alcoholic beverages are subject to import tariffs. Singapore, however, does impose high excise taxes on distilled spirits and wines, tobacco products, and motor vehicles (which are all imported). These are aimed at discouraging consumption for environmental and health purposes. The government also bans chewing gum (after it caused subway doors to jam). 4 For more information, see the U.S.-Singapore FTA Business Coalition web site at: [] CRS-3 Singapore has signed a free trade agreement with New Zealand (effective January 1, 2001), with European Free Trade Area (signed June 26, 2002, with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein), and in January 2002 concluded one with Japan that excludes agricultural products. The country also has concluded FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, is negotiating with Mexico and Canada, and is seeking an FTA with the European Union. Asian nations also have been discussing an East Asian free-trade zone which would include ASEAN plus Japan, China, and South Korea. The United States also has low trade barriers. The U.S. already has free trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, Israel, and Jordan, is considering free trade with Chile, Latin America, Australia, Morocco, and also is a member of APEC. A free-trade area with Singapore, therefore, is not likely to have a large effect on bilateral trade flows except in U.S. industries that are relatively protected (such as textiles and apparel). Singapore generally has an open investment regime. At the end of 2000, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Singapore totaled $23.2 billion. In 2001, investment commitments from the United States dropped 13% to about $1.8 billion. U.S. FDI in Singapore is concentrated largely in manufacturing (notably industrial machinery and equipment and electronics), finance, and petroleum.5 Singapore invested a net $6.1 billion in the United States in 2000 to bring its investment position here to $7.66 billion, much of which has been in real estate, wholesale trade, machinery industries, and depository institutions. Issues Since Singapore’s merchandise trade already is virtually free, U.S. negotiators focused on removing Singaporean restrictions on a wide range of services. These included high-technology sectors, such as engineering, medical, information technology, environmental, legal, financial, education, and distribution.6 The sticking points in the negotiations included textile trade (including rules of origin, customs, and transshipments), banking, and investment issues. One investment issue was how to approach investor-to-state dispute settlements and the standards for what constitutes a regulatory taking in the FTA. Investor-to-state mechanisms allow companies and individuals to sue the government over regulations that deprive investors of rights to their property.7 Access by U.S. banks to Singapore’s retail banking sector and limits on the operations of professionals (lawyers, architects, etc.) also were negotiated. In legal services, under the FTA, provisions are designed to make it easier for U.S. law firms to operate joint ventures with Singapore firms. In financial services, there are provisions to allow U.S. banks to expand their current retail banking operations and gain some access 5 The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore has about 1,200 members representing nearly 700 U.S. and foreign-owned companies. 6 For details on Singapore’s trade and investment barriers, see: U.S. Trade Representative. 2001 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. On Internet at []. 7 Administration Works on Investment Position for Singapore FTA. Inside U.S. Trade, December 15, 2000. CRS-4 to protected automated banking networks, as well as provisions for greater U.S. participation in securities, investment management, and insurance industries. The FTA also is to allow limited imports of chewing gum (despite Singapore’s national ban on it) and includes an Integrated Sourcing Initiative that is to extend some of the benefits of the FTA to the nearby Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan. The textile issue includes concerns that Singapore’s increased access to U.S. textile markets could encourage the transshipment of apparel from neighboring countries through Singapore or other claims of Singapore as the country of origin to circumvent U.S. import tariffs and/or quotas. This problem may be more acute in the case of Singapore because it is a city state with limited land area, moderately high wages,8 and a booming entrepot trade. Singaporean businesses have invested extensively in manufacturing facilities in neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia, and other lower-wage countries. The Integrated Sourcing Initiative may affect this activity. On April 2, 2002, the National Retail Federation (NRF) threatened to oppose the FTA if proposed provisions dealing with textiles and apparel were retained. These would have kept quotas in place until 2005 and maintained high U.S. tariffs on the “vast majority of textile and apparel products from Singapore for 10 years after the agreement enters into force.”9 With respect to intellectual property rights, Singapore has been on the Special 301 Watch List since 1995.10 This stems from U.S. concerns regarding the consistency of Singapore’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime with provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the inadequacy of police enforcement against IPR piracy. The FTA includes tough penalties for piracy and counterfeiting, including criminal penalties for companies that make pirated copies from legitimate products, assurances by Singapore that IPR laws will be enforced against traded goods, including trans-shipments, and mandates for damages under Singaporean law for IPR violations. The Bush Administration is taking a different approach from that of the Clinton trade team with respect to including labor and environmental provisions. Such provisions in trade agreements have become a source of considerable dispute between Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, and among other interest groups in the United States. The Jordan-U.S. agreement attempts to address both labor rights and environmental protection without impinging on the other’s sovereignty. It mainly commits each country to enforce the laws they already have in place. However, the agreement also contains a mechanism for enforcement. Apprehension about possible trade sanctions resulting from the agreement was allayed somewhat by side letters between the United States and Jordan 8 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for production workers in 1999, hourly compensation costs were $7.18 for Singapore, $5.44 for Hong Kong, $6.71 for Korea, $5.62 for Taiwan, and $20.89 for Japan. 9 National Retailers Federation. Comments Concerning Negotiation of a U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. Letter to Trade Policy Staff, U.S. Trade Representative, April 2, 2002. 10 Under the Special 301 provisions in U.S. trade law, the U.S. Trade Representative identifies countries with particular problems of protection or enforcement of intellectual property rights, places them on a “watch list” or “priority watch list,” and monitors them closely for progress. CRS-5 in which the U.S. Trade Representative stated that “appropriate measures for resolving any differences that may arise regarding the Agreement would be bilateral consultations and other procedures, particularly alternative mechanisms, that will help to secure compliance without recourse to traditional trade sanctions.”11 According to the USTR, the U.S.-Singapore FTA fully meets the labor and environmental objectives set out by Congress in its provision of Trade Promotion Authority to the President. Both labor and environmental obligations are part of the core text of the trade agreement. With respect to labor and the environment, both parties are to strive to ensure that their domestic laws provide for labor standards consistent with internationally recognized labor principles and that their environmental laws provide for high levels of environmental protection. The agreement makes it clear that it is inappropriate to weaken or reduce domestic labor or environmental protections to encourage trade or investment and requires that parties shall effectively enforce their own domestic labor and environmental laws. These obligations are enforceable through the Agreement’s dispute settlement procedures. The dispute settlement procedures include open public hearings, public release of legal submissions by parties, and the rights for interested third parties to submit views. The emphasis reportedly is on promoting compliance through consultation and tradeenhancing remedies. The enforcement mechanism includes the innovative use of monetary penalties to enforce commercial, labor, and environmental obligations of the agreement.12 Bilateral FTAs have been criticized because they introduce economic inefficiencies by distorting trade flows. They tend to divert export and import trade toward the countries involved. For example, under NAFTA, some U.S. importers have turned to suppliers in Mexico rather than buying from Asia, and manufacturers from Asia have relocated to Mexico to take advantage of the tariff-free access to the North American market. These inefficiencies caused by such trade diversion, however, may be offset by gains in efficiency through trade creation – additional trade generated by the existence of the larger, unified market. Bilateral FTAs, moreover, also play a role in the trade liberalizing process. Currently, markets are opened primarily through multilateral negotiations under the World Trade Organization, through organizations such as APEC, or by sectoral initiatives. Given the slowness of the WTO and APEC process and the lack of further progress on sectoral trade liberalization following the Information Technology Agreement13 in 1996, countries can do an “end run” around the WTO or APEC and liberalize trade with other like-minded countries. The trade diversion created by such FTAs, however, unleashes pressures for governments to either create FTAs of their own or join into existing FTA arrangements. Traditionally protectionist countries, such as China or Japan, now are actively seeking FTA-type arrangements with other nations. 11 Side Letter on Labor and Environment. U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick to the Ambassador of Jordan. July 23, 2001. 12 U.S. Trade Representative. Free Trade With Singapore. Trade Facts. December 16, 2002. On Internet at: []. 13 The Information Technology Agreement, concluded by 29 WTO participants in 1996, eliminated duties on most IT products with extended phase-in periods for some participants. CRS-6 Bilateral FTAs, therefore, can become building blocks, rather than stumbling blocks, to global trade liberalization. Appendix: U.S. Merchandise Trade Balances With Singapore, 19982001, by Major Two-Digit Harmonized System Commodity Codes (Million dollars) Harmonized System Code/Year 1998 Balance 1999 Balance 2000 Balance 2001 Balance Total Bilateral Trade Balance -2,662 -1,944 -1,372 2,652 Machinery -8,182 -6,966 -5,020 -3,611 -183 -423 -602 -463 4 -199 -231 -463 -245 -252 -260 -228 Special Import Provisions -94 -110 -116 -94 Woven Apparel -51 -64 -82 -58 Fish and Seafood -57 -50 -56 -49 Books/newspaper/manuscripts -67 -54 -35 -46 1 -39 24 21 137 141 67 25 Tanning, Dye, Paint, Putty 69 99 82 68 Inorgan.Chemicals/Rare Earths 46 58 71 73 Ships and Boats 18 -33 0 86 103 97 95 91 74 93 104 83 Misc. Chemical Products 249 278 341 259 Mineral Fuel Oil -63 94 -47 264 Optical, Photo, Medical, Surgical Instruments 324 387 655 299 Plastic 445 498 602 504 Machinery Electrical 2182 2070 1,174 1,429 Aircraft, Spacecraft 1765 1490 782 3,475 Special Other Organic Chemicals Knit Apparel Rubber Aluminum Iron and Steel Products Photographic/Cinematographic Source: Data from U.S. Department of Commerce.