Obama Says Singapore Key to U.S. Rebalancing Toward Asia

President Barack Obama called Singapore “one of the most successful countries in the world” and expressed appreciation for its military and economic cooperation, part of his administration’s foreign policy shift toward Asia.

Singapore has provided “a steady vision of how countries in the Pacific region can cooperate effectively,” Obama said as he hosted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House yesterday. Lee “has proven to be an outstanding partner for us on the international stage,” the president said.

Lee praised Obama for putting greater emphasis on Asia and said Singapore “would like to be of help in furthering this process,” which includes countering China’s increasing influence in the region.

Though the White House didn’t issue a statement on the specifics of a private meeting between the two leaders, they were to slated talk about economic and security issues, including the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Also on the agenda was discussion of the East Asia Summit and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Lee is on a four-day visit to the U.S. Obama visited Singapore in November 2009.

Obama and Lee also planned to discuss progress toward a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade alliance. If negotiations succeed, the 11-nation free-trade bloc would be the biggest trade deal for the U.S. and the first new accord under Obama. The region represents more than half of global output and more than 40 percent of world trade, according to the U.S. trade office.

Engineer’s Death

In their public comments yesterday, neither Obama nor Lee mentioned the June 2012 death in Singapore of Shane Todd, an American research engineer. Todd’s family has disputed the Singapore police department’s conclusion that he committed suicide.

Singapore police last month said they will share evidence with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Todd had worked at the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, a unit of the state-owned Agency for Science, Technology and Research. Todd’s family has suggested his death may have been tied to a project the institute was working on with China’s Huawei Technologies Co.

The Todd family has raised the issue with lawmakers including Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the case.

Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership started in 2005 with Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand as a pact to open trade in goods, services and government procurement. Negotiations have since widened to include Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and the U.S., which looks to complete talks by the end of this year.

During his four-day visit, the prime minister was to meet with Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Straits Times reported.

In New York, Lee planned talks with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and corporate business leaders, the newspaper said. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

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