Singapore's PM is upbeat about growth

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses Houston's business and civic leaders at the Hyatt Regency on July 12, 2010. (Marc Nathan Photographers, Inc.)

HOUSTON, July 12, 2010 - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore is giving an upbeat assessment of Asia's prospects for growth.

"I believe the fundamental transformations in East Asia will continue, and for a long time," the Prime Minister told an audience of 350 at the Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas.

After touting East Asia's robust recovery from the economic meltdown of 2007 and 2008, Lee focused much of his address on China,  suggesting that East-West conflicts over trade imbalances and currency valuations will resolve themselves as China transitions from an export-driven economy to one based on growing domestic consumption.

Lee made the remarks at a luncheon co-hosted by the Asia Society Texas Center and the Greater Houston Partnership.

He said rising wages in China will both drive up the cost of Chinese export goods and expand the market for US products.

"A move in this direction will help manage relations with America and make it easier for Walmart... [and] Halliburton to do business in China and for Chinese companies to trade with America and make it easier to keep the political temperature down," Lee said.

He defended China's hard-nosed approach to caps on CO2 emissions at the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, noting that India, Brazil and South Africa share China's unwillingness to hobble the growth that raises living standards for their people.

"These are very powerful human needs and trends that no government, whether elected or not, can ignore," he said.

He predicted that ultimately China will address climate change and adjust their policies accordingly.