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SIA to buy more Boeing planes, TPP updates may arrive by Apec summit: PM Lee

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expects to witness Singapore Airlines (SIA) placing additional airplane orders from Boeing during his coming visit to the United States, he said in an interview with CNBC reported on Friday.

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong expects to witness Singapore Airlines (SIA) placing additional airplane orders from Boeing during his coming visit to the United States, he said in an interview with CNBC reported on Friday.

He also hoped that developments on a new framework for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that excludes the US will emerge by November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders' summit in Vietnam.

Mr Lee made those comments ahead of his Oct 22 to 26 visit to the US, during which he will also meet US President Donald Trump.

Asked about deals that will be signed in the US, Mr Lee said that there is an agreement waiting for the national air carrier to buy more aircraft from Boeing, the US-based commercial jet maker.

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SIA already has orders in place for 30 787-10 Dreamliner airplanes from Boeing, and will be Boeing's launch customer for that aircraft. The airline announced in February that it had signed a letter of intent to place a US$13.8 billion order for 20 777-9s and 19 787-10s for additional growth and fleet modernisation over the next decade.

In a statement, SIA said: "We can confirm that the aircraft order announced as a letter of intent earlier this year is expected to be formally signed during PM Lee's visit to Washington DC next week. More details will be announced after the signing of the purchase agreement with Boeing."

On the TPP, Mr Lee said that the remaining 11 members of the TPP group are still discussing how to take the trade pact forward after Mr Trump pulled out of the multinational deal.

Mr Lee does not expect America to return to the table on the deal, saying that Mr Trump "has made his position quite clear". However, that does not mean that trade links between the US and Asia has stopped.

"It does not mean that the investment flows are abandoned," Mr Lee said. "It does not mean that Asians are not travelling to America to work, to study and for tourism, or that Americans are not all over the region. These are very big stakes we have in each other and which will continue."

Looking beyond the immediate region, Mr Lee also said that Singapore will seek to enrich the relationship with China when Singapore takes the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2018.

"Next year, Singapore is chairman of Asean," he said. "And also for these couple of years, Singapore is the Asean coordinator for relations with China. So we both want to make the relationship prosper."

He sounded a note of caution on North Korea, noting that the usual brinksmanship is now complicated by the fact that North Korea has more nuclear weapons and has conducted more tests.

"The danger is not just the immediate alarums but also the longer-term trends, which are set off in North-east Asia, if things persist in this direction," he said.

Looking over the longer term, Mr Lee said that he hopes to maintain 2 to 3 per cent economic growth for the next 10 to 15 years.

"If we can do that for 10 to 15 years, then you can make a very substantial change, and the quality of life and standards of living of the population," he said.

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