U.S. Is Vibrant Thanks to Immigration, Singapore Premier Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has benefited greatly from being a society that’s open to immigration even as it currently grapples with controversy over migrants, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“Different countries have made different trade-offs,” Lee told Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait in an interview at the New Economy Forum in Singapore. “Some have been very open and have benefited considerably from it -- America’s one of them.”

Immigration has made the U.S. a “vibrant” place, Lee said. The New Economy Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

“It’s now become a hot political issue but nevertheless, you’re able to attract talent from all over the world,” Lee said. “That’s a tremendous plus that you have, that America has, which China doesn’t have, Japan doesn’t have, even the Europeans don’t have to the same degree.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop migrant “caravans” from Central America and proposed ending by executive order the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. He has also promised to make it much more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to claim asylum.

Fox News, NBC and Facebook Inc. yanked a controversial political ad about the migrant caravan after critics described the commercial backed by Trump as racist. The move is a striking rebuke of a commercial promoted directly by a U.S. president’s campaign.

While the U.S. is looking inward and trying to curb immigration, Japan is looking outward and is set to welcome more migrants.

Describing Japan as a “much more closed society,” the country has had to reconsider its immigration policy as it grapples with an ageing population and labor shortage, Lee said.

“Now, they’re having to shift that trade-off,” Lee, 66, said. “The numbers are telling on them, their population is falling.”

Singapore -- a small, open trade-reliant economy -- is trying to strike a “very careful balance” on immigration as the nation copes with a declining birth rate and fewer marriages, Lee said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.