Singapore — While some degree of “common ground” may have been reached between the government and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) concerning free trade agreement CECA, the PSP is thus far sticking to its guns.
PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said in the course of the debate over free trade agreements (FTA), particularly CECA, in Parliament on Tuesday (July 6), “We don’t agree that CECA is net beneficial to Singapore at this stage.”
Ministerial speeches were made by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (speaking from his experience as a former trade negotiator), as well as Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, who both sought to clarify the issues concerning CECA.
This was followed by an hour-long debate that saw Mr Leong sparring with the ministers.
Mr Leong said that while he and fellow PSP NCMP Hazel Poa are “for FTAs,” the party will look further as to “whether CECA has contributed to the influx of some of the PMETs into Singapore in relation to our overall foreign talent policy”.
However, he acknowledged that he and Ms Poa “are very reassured that… Singaporeans’ interests are being taken care of,”
Having heard from the minister’s speeches that “the jobs and livelihoods of people are not being used as a bargaining chip.”
Mr Ong asked Mr Leong several times whether the PSP agrees that CECA does not permit the unfettered entrance professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) from India into Singapore and that FTAs are crucial for the country to survive economically.
Mr Leong said, “We know the importance of the FTAs for Singapore as an open economy and especially as a small city state. However, what we are concerned about is what price we are paying.”
And because Singapore is such a country with limits to its resources, “the implication is that we may have to be a bit more relaxed with the movement of people”.
The Health Minister referred back to what he had explained in his speech clarifying that Singapore did not give away its rights for immigration.
At one point, Mr Leong said that the PSP will look into the figures given by the two minters regarding the percentage of Indian PMETs vis a vis the overall PMET workforce, before making a final conclusion as to whether CECA is indeed beneficial to Singapore.
The Health Minister acknowledged the common ground that has been established in that Mr Leong had agreed that FTAs, including CECA, are vital for Singapore’s survival.
On his part, Mr Leong said some of his comments on the issue have been misinterpreted.
“What I’ve said is that we fully support FTAs, we know that that’s important for Singapore, and we appreciate the point that we are not using the movement of people as a bargaining chip in the negotiation of the FTAs,” the NCMP said. /TISG
Follow us on Social Media
Send in your scoops to firstname.lastname@example.org