5 myths and facts about the trade pact
SINGAPORE – In a ministerial statement on Tuesday (July 6), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung – formerly the deputy chief negotiator for the US-Singapore FTA – and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng debunked misconceptions about the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca).
The free trade pact, which was inked in 2005, has come under attack from some quarters on social media, as well as during last year’s general election.
Here are five myths and facts about Ceca, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Myth 1: Ceca obliges Singapore to give Indian workers free entry into Singapore
Fact: Ceca does not give Indian nationals unfettered access to Singapore’s labour market.
All foreign nationals, including Indian professionals and intra-corporate transferees (ICTs), have to meet prevailing work pass criteria before they are allowed to work in Singapore.
ICTs refer to transfers of a company’s employees from one country to another. They have consistently constituted a very small number – about 4,200 in 2020, of which 500 were from India.
Some have noted that companies that bring in ICTs do not have to advertise the position to locals as part of the Fair Consideration Framework, which requires employers to advertise jobs on the MyCareersFuture.sg portal before submitting Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass applications.
But overseas ICTs must fulfil additional criteria in order to meet the definition of ICTs in Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), including a minimum duration of working for the employer outside of Singapore.
They are also subject to conditions on their eligibility to bring in dependants, apply for permanent residency or future employment in Singapore.
For example, under Ceca, such transferees must have worked at least six months in the parent company, among other requirements. They can stay in Singapore for a total term of eight years, at most.
Myth 2: Ceca gives Indian nationals privileges for citizenship or permanent residency
Fact: Nothing in Ceca affects Singapore’s right to regulate immigration, citizenship or permanent residency.
Chapter 9 of the agreement on movement of natural persons makes it clear that the Government’s ability to regulate immigration and foreign manpower is not affected by the agreement.
Article 9.1.2 explicitly states that Ceca “shall not apply to measures pertaining to citizenship, permanent residence, or employment on a permanent basis”.