SINGAPORE: Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng spoke in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 6) to address "false allegations" surrounding free trade agreements and the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
Their ministerial statements and debate were carried live on CNA's YouTube channel.
Mr Ong, a former trade negotiator, said there was “nothing” in CECA to imply that Singapore must let in professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) from India unconditionally.
Singapore’s ability to impose requirements for immigration and work passes “has never been in question” in CECA or any other FTA. This is contrary to claims made by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), the minister said.
"FTAs and CECA have been made political scapegoats by the PSP, to discredit the policy of the PAP Government," he said.
In his speech, Dr Tan said the CECA debate was a "red herring". In implementing Singapore's foreign worker policy, the Government's approach is based on whether it will help Singaporeans, he said.
Intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) – employees of MNCs transferred from overseas – have to meet the work pass criteria set by the Manpower Ministry. They do not have "unfettered access" to Singapore's labour market, he said.
Singapore had 177,000 Employment Pass holders last year. A total of 4,200 were ICTs, among which 500 were from India.
"The PSP has made Indian nationals coming in through CECA a focus of contention. But I am afraid they have been barking up the wrong tree," Dr Tan said.