The Latest: Obama, Singapore’s leader meet in Oval Office


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the visit of the prime minister of Singapore to the White House (all times local):

9:55 a.m.

President Barack Obama and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong are sitting down for a formal meeting in the Oval Office.

The two leaders walked side by side together along the West Wing colonnade from the South Lawn after the arrival ceremony for Lee. In the Oval Office, they exchanged pleasantries and joked with each other but made no comments to reporters who were briefly allowed in for the start of their meeting.

U.S.-Asia relations and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal involving both Singapore and the United States are on the agenda.

Obama and Lee plan to hold a joint news conference at the White House following their meeting.

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9:40 a.m.

President Barack Obama says Singapore is an anchor for U.S. efforts to boost ties to Asia and has been a “rock-solid” partner.

Obama is welcoming Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House for a state visit. He says the U.S. and Singapore share a common vision for a peaceful and prosperous Asia.

Lee says the world has changed dramatically since the U.S. and Singapore opened diplomatic relations 50 years ago. He says American policies and actions have contributed to peace and prosperity in Asia, though he says the region isn’t without challenges.

Lee is also urging the U.S. Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

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9:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are welcoming the leader of Singapore to the White House for a state visit marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between their countries.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was greeted by an elaborate welcome ceremony as his limousine pulled in to the South Lawn of the White House. Hundreds of U.S. military members in blue and white uniforms formed an honor guard, some carrying bayoneted rifles. A canon fired repeatedly as a military band played the two countries’ national anthems.

Obama and the prime minister plan to meet in the Oval Office before taking questions from reporters. Lee will also be honored with a state dinner on Tuesday evening.

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9 a.m.

The prime minister of Singapore is joining President Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate the 50th anniversary of U.S. diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asian city state. But the two leaders will also discuss a shared cause with less rosy prospects — the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

Singapore, a close U.S. partner, is one of the 12 nations in the TPP, an agreement key to Obama’s effort to boost U.S. exports and build strategic ties in Asia. But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Washington visit starting Tuesday comes as opposition to the TPP intensifies in the United States. Both Republican contender Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who are competing to succeed Obama as president, are against it.

Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce late Monday, Lee urged its ratification, saying the pact would give the U.S. better access to the markets that account for 40 percent of global economic output. He said it would also add heft add heft to Washington’s so-called “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific.

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