August 2, 2016 at 11:24 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Obama administration reiterates support of controversial trade deal

President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016. The White House continues to support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016. The White House continues to support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Obama administration on Tuesday once again defended a controversial trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries.

“I’m a strong supporter of TPP because it will reduce tariffs — taxes, basically — on American goods, from cars to crops, and make it easier for Americans to export into the fastest-growing markets of the world,” said President Obama during a joint White House press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “TPP levels the playing field for our workers and helps to ensure countries abide by strong labor and environmental rules.”

The joint press conference took place hours before the White House held a state dinner in Lee’s honor. The Singaporean prime minister earlier in the day attended a luncheon at the State Department with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden.

Kerry said more than 3,700 American countries “have a presence” in Singapore.

He noted the small island city-state that is located south of the Malaysian mainland asked the U.S. to join the TPP. Kerry also described the trade agreement as “a pact that is good for American workers and businesses, good for Singapore, good for the environment and essential to unite 40 percent of the global economy around standards that create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.”

Lee noted both Biden and Obama have “made a strong case” for the TPP. He expressed optimism that Congress would soon ratify it.

“We are near the finish line,” said Lee at the White House. “We hope that the countries — particularly the U.S. — will be able to ratify the TPP as soon as possible.”

The TPP would include Singapore, the U.S., Malaysia, Brunei, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam if the countries ratify it.

Singapore is among the more than 70 countries around the world in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Pride at Work and other advocacy groups that oppose the TPP have noted it lacks LGBT-specific provisions.

Ned Price, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday after Obama and Lee’s press conference that “countering violence and discrimination against LGBT persons is a priority of our human rights agenda.”

“In our conversations with governments in Southeast Asia, we frequently urge the removal of any laws that they may have on the books that criminalize consensual same-sex relations and to ensure that LGBT persons are protected under anti-discrimination laws,” said Price. “This is an issue we have frequently raised with our Singaporean counterparts, and we will continue to do so.”

The State Department has not immediately returned the Blade’s comment about whether Kerry and Lee discussed Singapore’s LGBT rights record on Tuesday.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

3 Comments
  • I’ll bet the Blade staff is not holding its collective breath.

    We’ve heard that one before… over and over and over again. It has become not very credible at all. “Urging” homophobic/transphobic states to end their criminalization is SO NOT ENOUGH.

    That should be a bare minimum requirement for any consideration of TPP. Otherwise, kill it for the hate crime enabling and human rights violation it is.
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    **
    “In our conversations with governments in Southeast Asia, we frequently urge the removal of any laws that they may have on the books that criminalize consensual same-sex relations and to ensure that LGBT persons are protected under anti-discrimination laws,” said Price. “This is an issue we have frequently raised with our Singaporean counterparts, and we will continue to do so.”
    . The State Department has not immediately returned the Blade’s comment about whether Kerry and Lee discussed Singapore’s LGBT rights record on Tuesday.**

  • There has never been a trade deal that has increased the American work force. This is just like NAFTA and CAFTA. It’s a way to make a haven for rich people to hide their money and a way to cheaper labor. Sorry Obama. This is change you can keep. It’s strange that this story even made it front and center to this website considering it has little to do with LGBTQ rights. It also seems poorly researched.

  • Again, I call, bullplop on Obama’s homophobic/transphobic TPP.

    Absent a decriminalization provision, It is not free trade. It is de facto discriminatory trade against LGBT-owned businesses– tacitly, shamefully supported by the U.S. government.

    Obama’s TPP necessarily relegates LGBT businesses to a disadvantageous position with their ‘legal’ straight competitors seeking to trade with consumers in Singapore.

    Obama’s TPP will actually encourage competitors to attack and publicly *OUT* LGBT-owned businesses so that said LGBT businesses will be denied trading rights in Singapore.

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