U.S., Singapore Wrap Up Free-Trade Deal

The Bush administration announced Wednesday it had cleared away the last hurdle to a free-trade agreement with Singapore, wrapping up the deal a month after a similar one with Chile, the Associated Press reported.

Administration officials said a final round of telephone negotiations between Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor and Koh Yong Guan, managing director of Singapore’s monetary authority, resolved the lone sticking point: treatment of capital flows during periods of financial crises.

Under the deal, Singapore may impose capital controls if it deems them necessary, but U.S. investors may file claims to recoup any investments trapped in Singapore.

The administration hopes to use agreements with Chile, Singapore and other countries to give momentum to the negotiations on even bigger prizes: a deal covering all countries except Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, and new global trade talks covering the 144 nations in the World Trade Organization.

The deal with Singapore would wipe out tariffs and other trade barriers on about $33 billion in merchandise trade between the two nations. It also would give U.S. banks and service companies more access to one of Asia’s main financial centers.

Meanwhile, President Bush, who has tried to lure organized labor into the Republicans’ political camp, Wednesday named Teamsters’ President James Hoffa to an administration advisory panel on trade.

Bush also named Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group that advocates lower taxes and less government, to a two-year term on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.