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SG needs to embrace globalisation: Ong Ye Kung

Minister of Health and former trade negotiator, Ong Ye Kung, also defends the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung, also a former trade negotiator for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, addressed the need for international economic cooperation in his latest ministerial statement.

“Simply put, we are too small to survive on our own, and we need to tap into global markets to earn a living, and be self-reliant,” Ong said.

He said that free trade agreements (FTAs) have been a part of Singapore’s economic strategy since the late 90s, and will continue to do so.

“If we accept the basic reality that Singapore needs the world to earn a living, then we would realise the fundamental importance of all our FTAs. They are a keystone of the economic super-structure we have built. We could not have advanced the welfare of Singaporeans to the degree we have without FTAs,” he said.

In line with this, Ong defended the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) from criticisms and controversies.

Singed in 2005, the CECA reduces tariff barriers between the two countries, which has led to an 80% growth in bilateral trade from $20b in 2005 to $38b in 2019.

Ong denied allegations that the agreement would allow for the unconditional entry of professionals, managers, and executives from India.

“The obligation that Chapter 9 [of the CECA] imposes on the Parties is to process applications for temporary entry with some expedition, and a certain transparency, such as informing applicants of the outcomes and not leaving them in suspense,” he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong likewise defended the controversial agreement in a Facebook post, Wednesday.

“The misrepresentation of the effects of the CECA with India has caused much unnecessary public concern,” Lee said.

He added that Singaporeans are anxious about jobs, foreign competition, and the impact of foreign workers in the country, but that the CECA is not to blame for the issues that arise from these concerns.

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