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A FINE ENVOY POST FOR A FINE UTAHN

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Congratulations are clearly in order for Utah businessman Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who is being nominated as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Singapore. So is a little envy.

A pat on the back is appropriate not only because ambassadorial posts are so prestigious but also because of Huntsman's outstanding qualifications. At 32, he would be one of the youngest ambassadors in this country. But he has plenty of experience.Before returning to Utah to become a vice president of Huntsman Chemical, the largest privately held chemical corporation in America, he was deputy assistant secretary of commerce for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

If his nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Huntsman will be posted to one of the world's smallest but busiest and most successful countries.

Little more than 10 times the size of Manhattan, Singapore boasts the world's second busiest harbor and third largest petroleum refining center. Its prosperity is unrivaled in Asia except by Japan. This success is due to the skills and energy of its people plus the efficiency of its government. With 96 percent of goods passing through its ports duty-free, Singapore is a model of free trade.

But Singapore is not without problems. It is surrounded by envious neighbors that are often bigger but less stable. The trade surplus Singapore has run with the United States could make it a target of protectionist measures from Washington. Also, the little island is running out of space for further growth and development.

Plenty of diplomatic posts are more demanding than the one being handed to Jon M. Huntsman Jr. But few places are more interesting than Singapore, the meeting place of many peoples. Utahns are proud of him and of his new assignment.