Investor rights were also the subject of major litigation during the negotiations. The issue was the use of investors if the government were to take possession of its assets or influence its activities in a manner contrary to the agreement. The free trade agreement includes an investor-state mechanism under which investors who are harmed by government measures that violate the obligations of the ESTV have the right to settle the dispute directly before an international arbitration tribunal. The aim is to provide for an impartial and transparent dispute resolution procedure. Submissions from dispute resolution bodies and hearings should be open to the public and interested parties should have the opportunity to give their views. Singaporean investors who enter into investment agreements with the federal government after the free trade agreement comes into force should be able to resolve existing disputes directly before an international arbitration tribunal. The free trade agreement between the United States and Singapore is of interest to Congress because (1) it required congressional approval through expedited legislative procedures, in accordance with P.L. 107-210, which granted the President the Trade Promotion Authority; (2) it continues the trend towards greater trade liberalization and globalization; (3) contains a new approach to dealing with environmental and labour disputes; (4) it may affect certain trade streams which, in turn, would affect U.S. firms, including competing import industries, such as electronic equipment and other machinery; and (5) Parts of the free trade agreement can serve as a model for agreements with other nations. Some of the specific issues in the free trade agreement are also controversial. The free trade agreement between the United States and Singapore stipulates that both sides must ensure that their national environmental laws ensure a high level of environmental protection and strive to improve them further. The agreement also requires parties to effectively enforce their own national environmental laws.
With regard to labour standards, both sides should also reaffirm their commitments as members of the International Labour Organization. They should strive to ensure that their national laws provide for labour standards consistent with internationally recognized labour principles. The agreement also requires the parties to effectively enforce their own labour and environmental laws. These obligations are enforceable by the dispute resolution procedures of the agreement, but with financial (limited) penalties in the event of non-compliance. Labour interests indicate that while the Singapore Agreement requires signatories to enforce their domestic labour laws, it does not require signatories to enforce labour laws or to ensure that their labour laws comply with any international norm or terrain. (53) The agreement is expected to be the first free trade agreement with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the third with an Asian country after South Korea and Japan from the EU`s point of view.