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Even if Trump wants to renegotiate the TPP, members may not bite, says Singapore official

Key Points
  • Even if the U.S. seeks to re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the pact's members may not be open to renegotiate, said Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Recent U.S. trade measures are "a concern for the whole of Asia," Koh added.
Trade tensions are a concern for the whole of Asia, says ambassador

President Donald Trump has been dropping hints that he may rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the massive free-trade agreement can be re-negotiated. But the TPP's 11 members may not want to change a newly inked deal that took over a year to close following Washington's exit in January 2017.

"I don't think those 11 countries have an appetite to re-open it for renegotiation," Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on the sidelines of Credit Suisse's Global Megatrends Conference.

Officially known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the agreement will cut tariffs between members and is currently awaiting ratification from six of the 11 nations.

Trump's intentions on the TPP, however, remain unclear. A few days after asking advisors to consider the possibility of re-entering the pact, the president on Tuesday said that he doesn't think the TPP is good for the U.S.

President Donald Trump
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

As a former ambassador to the U.S. for Singapore, Koh also expressed worry about Trump's trade policies.

It's "a concern for the whole of Asia," he said. "All of us have benefited from free trade and all of us oppose protectionism so we're very concerned by the policies of the current administration in Washington."

On Trump's approach to North Korea, Koh welcomed recent developments as a positive step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"Until a few months ago, the world was holding its breath, fearing there would be a war between the United States and North Korea ... what has happened recently is good news," he said, referring to an upcoming summit between the two leaders.

However, "the question is whether the United States is prepared to pay the price for [Kim's] agreement to denuclearize North Korea," Koh continued.