The Singapore-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed last week has disappointed US law firms by making little concession towards opening up the legal market to US competitors.

A letter from Singapore’s minister for trade and industry to the US ambassador in the region Robert Zoellick confirmed that Singapore will admit to the local bar US-qualified lawyers from four US law schools which have yet to be selected.

However, no mention was made of the easing of legislation in relation to joint ventures, the only concession being an annual review.

“There’s very little change. It’s just window dressing,” said a partner in the Singapore office of one US firm. Despite this, the FTA is likely to bring in more work for US lawyers.

This is the first FTA signed by the US in the Asia Pacific, although Australia and Thailand are likely to follow.