The battle over whether to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has shown how toxic the U.S. political environment had become, said Tommy Koh, Singapore's ambassador-at-large for foreign affairs.
Historically, Republicans had always supported free trade, but now the mood has turned nationalistic, said Koh, who called himself an "accidental diplomat" despite 50 years of working within the Singapore government. The collegiality between the two major parties has also disappeared and the atmosphere is now a "civil war", said Koh at the DBS Asian Insights conference in Singapore on Thursday.
It's become party first and nation second, he said.
That may hold up the TPP for years to come, said Koh, who helped negotiate Singapore's bilateral free trade agreement with the U.S.
Some still hold out hope that the deal will proceed, despite both U.S. presidential candidates opposing it.
Mari Pangestu, Indonesia's former trade minister, said she expected that the TPP might proceed in the U.S. with some renegotiations of issues, similar to then-President Bill Clinton's renegotiation of some aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) before it was ratified.