To promote bilateral cooperation between Singapore and India and strengthen business relations, S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) has said that Singapore is looking forward for concluding the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India.
Iswaran said, “We remain engaged and are prepared to conclude the CECA. We have also indicated to the Indian government that we would like to conclude it as that is another important platform for bilateral economic engagement between the two countries.”
He added, “There is enough of basis there for us to conclude it and take it to the next level. We are waiting for the Indian government to sign off on this.”
Pointedly, Singapore-India CECA is a bilateral free-trade agreement covering areas such as tariff concessions and the facilitation of movement of professionals. The agreement concluded in 2005. Both the countries have been in discussions over the past six years on an expansion of the scope of the agreement.
However, there were reports in the Singapore media last month that the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry said the review of the pact has not been put on hold and that “the agreement continues in force”. However, the Indian authorities noted that “recent policy measures by Singapore” that do not respect the movement of natural persons “are a cause of concern and are being discussed with the Government of Singapore”.
There were also reports in Indian media that New Delhi had placed on hold the review of the CECA with Singapore because of restrictions placed on visas for Indian IT professionals to work in the city-state.
Iswaran has clarified to Singapore-based newspaper Today, “Our position has been consistent; which is, we apply the rules equally to everyone. The companies that operate here have to work in compliance with our rules, and our rules include the fair consideration framework which is applied equally. There is no differentiation based on source markets.”
He noted that Singapore had not received any specific representation officially or through any formal channels on any particular violation of the pact.
In CECA’s clauses on movement of natural persons, business visitors, short-term service suppliers, professionals as well as employees transferred within companies can gain temporary entry into both countries.