WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday it was vital that the United States be able to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement if it wanted to stay engaged with the Asia Pacific region and be taken seriously there.
Speaking after U.S. President Barack Obama's bid to secure congressional legislation needed to pass the pending 12-nation TPP quickly was dealt a blow on Friday, Shanmugam said U.S. credibility hung in the balance.
"It’s absolutely vital to get it done," he told Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think thank. "If you don't do this deal, what are your levers of power?"
"The choice is a very stark one – do you want to be part of the region, or do you want to be out of the region? And if you are out of the region … your only lever to shape the architecture, to influence events, is the (U.S.) Seventh Fleet and that’s not the lever you want to use," he said.
"Trade is strategy and you’re either in or out. It’s very, very serious and your credibility - let’s be frank about it -
the president wants it, everybody knows this is important and you can't get it done? How credible are you going to be?"
On Friday, House Democrats disregarded Obama's personal pleas and teamed up with Republicans to overwhelmingly defeat a program that helps American workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals, effectively stalling his bid for fast- track Trade Promotion Authority.
Obama has presented the TPP as the key economic pillar of his strategic rebalance to Asia in response to a rapidly rising and increasingly assertive China, arguing that it is vital that the United States continue to take the lead in setting the global economic agenda.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali; Editing by Tom Brown