• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singaporean President Tony Tan affirmed in Tokyo on Thursday the importance of ratifying and bringing into force the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to prevent a regression in the progress of free trade.

Japan, Singapore and 10 other Pacific Rim nations signed the TPP in February. It effectively requires U.S. ratification to come into force, meaning U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the pact as soon as he takes office in January has put its future in doubt.

“We discussed the economic and strategic importance of the TPP and agreed that it is in the interests of all TPP partners to ensure that the TPP is ratified and enters into force expeditiously,” Tan told a joint press conference after the meeting.

Abe and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had agreed at a summit in Tokyo in September to cooperate in swiftly bringing the pact into force.

Abe and Tan also agreed Thursday to work together toward the swift conclusion of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, another multilateral trade deal for the Asia-Pacific region.

The RCEP negotiations currently exclude the United States, making China the biggest participant by gross domestic product. Abe and several other leaders of the TPP signatories have alluded to the strategic importance of the TPP, which excludes China.

The leaders also discussed the suitability of Japan’s shinkansen bullet train technology for a proposed high-speed railway line linking Singapore and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

Abe said Japan and Singapore will hold a “comprehensive, high-level consultation” before the end of the year “to strengthen our cooperation in transportation infrastructure across the three fields of land, sea and air, including in high-speed rail projects.”

“I strongly hope there will be progress on the adoption of Japan’s shinkansen technology,” Abe said.

“On the shinkansen, Singapore recognizes the long record of safety, reliability and efficiency of Japanese technology,” Tan replied at the press conference.

The Singaporean leader said Japan is welcome to put in a competitive bid for the project.

“Singapore and Malaysia will work together to ensure a rigorous, objective and transparent tender process to achieve our common interest in having the best technology for the project,” Tan said.

The leaders also said they exchanged opinions on issues of peace and security, but refrained from making any specific reference to territorial issues in the South China Sea.

“Singapore welcomes Japan to continue playing a positive role in the region under the framework of the U.S.-Japan security alliance,” Tan said.

Tan is on a nine-day state visit to Japan through next Tuesday.

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