US President Barack Obama is defending a trade deal that would group the United States with 11 Asia-Pacific countries, with the proposed agreement under fire from presidential candidates of both major political parties.

"The answer cannot be to back away from trade in the global economy," Obama said after a White House meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday. "It's not possible to cut ourselves off."

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will open up markets to more US goods, increase labour and environmental standards and help bolster stability in a key region of the world, Obama said.

He expressed confidence that he can get the deal approved by Congress later this year, despite opposition from his own Democrats, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and from Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Clinton and Trump have both sought to tap into anti-trade sentiment, particularly among working class voters who have seen a decline in manufacturing jobs.

Trump's campaign sent out an email during Obama's press conference saying that electing him "is the only way to stop TPP catastrophe." In the message, the Republican nominee charged that the deal "will kill millions of jobs."

Trump's protectionist policies are in contrast to the conservative party's traditionally free-trade leanings. Clinton supported TPP while secretary of state under Obama from 2009-2013, but changed course during the Democratic Party primaries when she came under fire on the issue from left-wing challenger Bernie Sanders.

Obama acknowledged problems with trade deals that had cost some jobs while adding others, but said "the answer is not cutting off globalization," and promised his TPP deal addressed many of the concerns of past deals.

Lee called the deal to which Singapore is a signatory an "integral component of America's rebalance to Asia" and called for the US Congress to ratify the agreement.

"We are near the finish line, and we hope the countries, particularly the US, would be able to ratify the TPP as soon as possible," he said.

Lee noted that many Asian governments had risked a lot of their own political capital to pursue the deal, and alliances would be damaged if the US were to back out.

"If at the end, waiting at the altar, the bride doesn't arrive, there are going to be people who are going to be hurt," Lee said.

Obama is hosting Lee for a pomp-filled official visit marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the countries that included a welcome ceremony on the White House's South Lawn and is scheduled to feature a state dinner.

"As the United States has rebalanced our foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific, Singapore and Prime Minister Lee in particular had been solid rock partners," Obama said.

"We stand together for a regional order where every nation, large and small, plays and trades by the same rules, and we stand together to meet the threats of the 21st century - from terrorism to the spread of disease to climate change," the US president said.

Lee noted that Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister to officially visit Washington at the invitation of president Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1967.

He said the US-Singapore relationship had remained steadfast over nine US administrations and said that Singapore "fervently" hoped the US would "stay engaged and maintain its indispensable role" in the Asia-Pacific region.

Related stories

Latest news

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.

Trump and the nuclear codes: Carnival again takes aim at politicians

US President Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Germany's right-wing AfD party: Floats unveiled Tuesday for this year's Carnival parades in Cologne and Mainz once again turn to political satire to entertain revellers.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.

Slovenia welcomes construction of LNG terminal off Krk, but won't join for now

Slovenia is not planning for now to connect to the floating LNG terminal to be built off Omisalj on the northern Croatian Adriatic island of Krk, but welcomes any additional energy source, Slovenian media say.

German court rules against automatic refugee status for Syrians

Syrians fleeing the multi-sided civil war in their home country do not have an automatic right to refugee status under the Geneva Convention, a German court ruled Tuesday.

Business conference pushes for intensified privatisation in Croatia

As long as the state authorities pay high bills, this means that the government has not yet seriously delved into the privatisation of state-run companies, although their sale can alleviate the pressure on the state budget, a business conference in Zagreb heard on Tuesday.

HND condemns judge's verbal tirade against reporters

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Tuesday condemned a verbal tirade by Sibenik Municipal Court Judge Maja Supe against reporters in the courtroom, claiming that they were not educated to report on trials and that they had called her the "most corrupt judge in the country."

Mosque attended by Berlin attacker Amri closed, police confirm

The mosque in Berlin attended by Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri has been closed. The mosque is permanently closed, read a note in German and Turkish on the door of the prayer rooms which was seen on Tuesday.

German army to expand to almost 200,000 soldiers

Germany's Bundeswehr, plans to expand its number of professional soldier to 198,000 by 2024 because of increasing duties, the German Defence Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Fired Audi engineer says he was 'sacrificed' for emissions scandal

A fired Audi engineer was "sacrificed" amid the ongoing VW group diesel emissions scandal, his lawyer claimed in court on Tuesday as he contested his client's dismissal.