Monday, 11 June 2018

Singapore and India CECA

Enhanced CECA between S’pore and India officially recognizes Indian nursing degrees

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) released a public statement yesterday (1 Jun) announcing that Singapore and India have "successfully" concluded the second review of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

"Today, in the presence of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Loh Khum Yean, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore, and Mr Jawed Ashraf, Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, exchanged the Joint Statement on the conclusion of the CECA second review," MTI announced.

The new CECA enhancements include expanding tariff concessions for an additional 30 products and improving rules of origin to provide more flexibility for Singapore exports into India, so as to qualify for preferential tariffs under the agreement, MTI noted.

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Was PM Lee completely outsmarted by the Indians?

Twelve years ago on 29 June 2005, PM Lee triumphantly went to India to sign the free trade agreement, the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement or CECA, with the Indian government. At the official dinner hosted by the Indian PM for him in New Delhi, PM Lee happily announced that a “New India” is emerging.

“Singapore is keen to engage this New India,” he said. “With the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, or CECA, there is no doubt that our trade and business tie-ups will increase considerably. It (CECA) is much more than a free trade agreement. The CECA will bring our two countries closer together,” he added. “Singapore and India stand to gain immensely from the increased flow of goods, services, investments and talent. As economic linkages expand and the free flow of people and ideas continues, I am confident that the relationship will grow from strength to strength. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the good health and success of His Excellency Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the peace and prosperity of the people of India and the enduring friendship between our countries.”- PM Lee at Dinner hosted by India’s PM, 29 June 2005

And that was how Singapore ended up signing CECA with India.

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Lee Hsien Loong signed agreement to import cheap Indian labour

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rehashed his commitment to create jobs for India graduates by signing an upgraded version of the CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) agreement with India. The CECA agreement will allow cheap foreign labour working from the professional Information Technology (IT) sector to the unskilled cleaning sector. The move come a month after Lee Hsien Loong promised to create 1,920 jobs for Filipinos in Singapore.

Also established in the renewed 2018 CECA is the recognition of India nursing certificates. When it comes to employment, Singaporean Registered Nurses (RN) with nursing diplomas will now have similar standing to that of Indian nursing qualifications. The move will likely depress the wages of registered nurses in Singapore further, which is currently at an average of about S$2,300 in take-home pay.

In addition to the depression of salaries, Indian professionals has a poor international reputation due to the number of fake qualifications. Both the private and public sector were found to be duped by these fake qualifications holders. In 2015, Singapore government statutory board Information Development Authority (IDA) was found to have hired an Indian national who put up qualifications bought from degree mills. Some foreigners posted fake qualifications of universities where they were never a graduate of.

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India, Singapore formalise mutual recognition agreement in nursing

India has formalised a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) in nursing with Singapore which would allow nurses trained in seven nursing institutions across India to gain employment in the South-East Asian country. “This has paved way for our healthcare service providers to institutionally access markets abroad. It will further open up doors for India to enter into similar mutual recognition arrangements with other countries,” according to an official release circulated by the Commerce Ministry on Friday.

India and Singapore concluded the second review of India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which was officially announced on Friday during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Singapore. “Both countries could reach a common understanding on various unresolved issues in the second review which were pending since 2010. In the review, India and Singapore agreed to expand the coverage of tariff concessions, liberalise the rules of origin and incorporate new product specific rules (PSRs) to further enhance trade between the two countries,” the release added.

The India-Singapore CECA was ratified in 2005. Although the two sides had also agreed to sign MRAs in four other areas including architecture, accountancy, dentistry and medical (doctors), there has not been much progress in these.

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Enhanced CECA between S’pore and India officially recognizes Indian nursing degrees

However, CECA became controversial over the last few years as more Singaporeans become aware of its ramification, thanks to social media. The chief complaint against CECA is over the clause governing the movement of people between Singapore and India.

Certainly, fewer Singaporeans want to work in India compared to the number of Indian nationals wanting to work here, since S$1 easily converts to 50 rupees. More Indian nationals working in Singapore would mean more job competitions here, as they can easily undercut Singaporeans in terms of salaries.

However, MTI avoided mentioning the mutual recognition of nursing degrees and diplomas under the new enhanced CECA in the main section of its media release.

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Local PMETs Further Played Out by Deepening of Singapore-India CECA Agreement?

In the 3rd quarter of 2017, Singapore PMETs comprised 70 percent of retrenchmentsWith the deepening of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India, has the Singapore government played out PMETs even further?

Following the second review of the CECA, which concluded on 1 June, the Indian government declared: “In a major gain for India, Singapore agreed to expand coverage of Indian nursing institutions by recognising seven nursing institutions in the MRA. This has paved way for our healthcare service providers to institutionally access markets abroad. It will further open up doors for India to enter into similar mutual recognition arrangements with other countries.”

The big problem with the CECA is the clause regarding Inter-Corporate Transferees.

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INDIAN MINISTER: OUR NURSES ARE HEADED TO WORK IN S'PORE SOON

The Economic Times reported that India and Singapore are on the verge of signing a “mutual recognition agreement” that will make it easier for Indian nurses to work in Singapore.

Apparently (‘India-Singapore to sign a pact for movement of nurses‘), “India and Singapore are making progress in signing mutual recognition agreement for para-medical courses that will make it easier for domestically trained nurses to get work” in Singapore.

“Our nurses are highly sought after… we have made some progress in Singapore and soon we should have some kind of movement of nurses (to Singapore),” Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry J S Deepak told Indian reporters.

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How many PMETs from India came since 2005 under CECA and how many Singaporeans over to India?

I refer to the article “Review of India-S’pore economic pact not on hold: Delhi” (Straits Times, Apr 6).

It states that “India’s Commerce Ministry says it is in discussion with Singapore on providing visas for its IT professionals but denies that the issue has led to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) being put on hold." The India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) entered into force on 1 August 2005.

It is said that CECA increased trade and investment flows between India and Singapore. Bilateral trade grew from S$16.6 billion in 2005 to S$25.5 billion in 2013. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from India into Singapore grew from S$1.3 billion in 2005 to S$20 billion in 2012.

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Improved CECA between S & P; India and India officially recognizes Indian nurses

Trade Ministry (MTI) released a public statement yesterday (June 1) announcing that Singapore and India successfully completed the second review of the Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between India and Singapore.

"Today, in the presence of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Loh Khum Yean, Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry, Singapore, and Jawed Ashraf, India's High Commissioner for Singapore, exchanged a joint statement Following the end of CECA's second review, MTI announced.

The new CECA improvements include increasing tariff concessions for additional 30 products and improving the rules of origin to provide greater flexibility for Singapore exports to India in order to qualify for preferential tariffs under the agreement established MTI.

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Singapore First: Quietly shutting the door on Indian techies and other foreign workers
Too crowded. (Reuters/Edgar Su)

Nearly 10,000 miles away from the anti-immigrant climate in Trump’s America, an island nation has been clamping down on Indian tech workers as part of its efforts to make sure companies give locals a fair shake, and to address concerns about overpopulation.

Singapore, which has about 5.6 million people and a workforce nearly 40% made up of nonresidents, has been ramping up measures to ensure that firms have a “Singapore core.” Officials have noted that foreign workers tend to be more common in certain industries, including food-and-beverage and technology. While Singapore hasn’t made any statements singling out Indian workers or firms, India’s IT trade industry body says it’s seen a definite change in the visa regime.

“They realized that the total number of people they have… far exceed the optimal level [the country can accommodate],” Gagan Sabharwal, director of global trade development at Nasscom, told Quartz. “That’s when they started shutting the tap down by making it more expensive, making it more cumbersome for companies.” Nasscom, the National Association of Software and Services Companies, has noted a reduction in visas over several years, but says things have become particularly tough since last year.

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INDIA MAY TAKE SINGAPORE TO WTO FOR VIOLATION OF CECA

The new measures taken by Singapore to control the influx of foreigners working in Singapore ‘has irked India as the new law does not give India a preferential treatment incorporated in the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA) between the two countries, operational since 2005. This stance by the Singapore Government is expected to affect Indians working as middle-level managers, executives and technicians.

Speculation is rife that India might take up the issue with World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement body. However, according to Singapore such a decision was imperative in the interest of the natives as the share of the foreign workforce is rising very rapidly.
“… I do not think we have contravened our commitments in the WTO or the CECA. Moreover, this is not specifically targeted to any one country. We remain very open to foreign talent,” a senior Singapore government official told Business Standard…. According to Indian officials involved in the negotiations, this is a violation of the services trade agreement under CECA. This will also adversely affect Indians who are working there as it might lead to job losses, especially for the middle level workers.

India has submitted a request to Singapore for addressing the matter but has not received a formal communication yet.

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Govt decries CECA violation by Singapore

Those of you planning to make it big in Singapore might be in for a setback. Singapore recently made certain changes to its Employment Pass Framework law to reduce inflow of foreign workers significantly to create more job opportunities for local professionals. The move is expected to impact even those Indians working there at present across various sectors.

The amendments, made on a proposal by its Ministry of Manpower, has armed the Singapore government to bring down the foreign share of the total workforce to around one-third while encouraging employers to invest in productivity in return for incentives in the form of tax breaks. The move came as a recent Singapore's policy paper predicted that its population would grow by 30 per cent to 6.9 million by 2030, with immigrants making up nearly half that figure. The paper led to demonstrations in Singapore yesterday, a rare happening in the country, in protest against rise in immigrants.

The step has irked India as the new law does not give India a preferential treatment incorporated in the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA) between the two countries, operational since 2005. This stance by the Singapore Government is expected to affect Indians working as middle-level managers, executives and technicians.'

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India-S'pore pact review 'put on hold'
Singapore’s Minister for Trade & Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang (left) shaking hands with High Commissioner Jawed Ashraf at the reception to celebrate India’s 68th Republic Day held at the Shangri-La Hotel on Jan 26, 2017. FOTO: HIGH COMMISSION OF INDIA

India has put on hold a review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) in response to cutbacks in visa approvals for Indian software professionals bound for Singapore, according to a report in the Times of India newspaper.

Ceca is a free trade pact with Singapore & the review is meant to look at areas where the agreement could possibly be expanded.


The Times of India, quoting unnamed sources, said the government feels Singapore violated the pact by restricting the movement of software professionals. The Indian Ministry of Commerce did not respond to queries from The Straits Times on whether the agreement had been put on hold by India.

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After US, Singapore tightens work visas, advises Indian IT cos to hire more locals

After the US, Indian information technology professionals are now finding it tough to find work in Singapore, with the country advising Indian companies there to hire more locals, the Times of India reported today.

Work visas for Indian IT professionals have almost stopped and the push to hire more locals has led Indian companies to consider shifting their operations to other countries in the region. To add to hurdles on issuances, the visa authorities at Singapore are said to be demanding compliance with certain economic pre-requisites via a test called the economic needs test (ENT). The test is being conducted despite clear instructions from the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that "no such test be done on agreed services".

Due to such violation of the trade pact, the Indian government has had to defer the review of the CECA. The government has also been forced to decide against expanding the scope of goods where import duties would be cut unless the concerns of domestic industry, both IT and banking, are addressed.

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India unhappy with restrictions

Singapore’s move to placate its locals is seen as a stumbling block to Indian workers who are looking for jobs in the republic.

INDIA may soon put a little international dimension into the growing rift over immigration between Singaporeans and their government.

It has complained that recent laws in Singapore – aimed at placating Singaporeans – were imposing restrictions on Indian professionals who intend to work in the city.

This, it says, is a violation of a bilateral free trade pact, the service portion of which grants special preferential treatment to Indian workers. The two countries signed the pact, called Comprehensive Econo­mic Partnership Agreement (CECA), in 2005.

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Singapore blocks visas for Indian IT professionals

While the focus has been on the US, visas for IT professionals to work in Singapore have dropped “to a trickle”, prompting the government to put on hold the review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) citing violation of the trade pact. With Indian companies being advised to hire local talent, they are looking at relocating some of their operations to other countries in the region. From HCL and TCS, which were the early movers to Singapore, the list has expanded to include Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and L&T Infotech.

“This (visa problem) has been lingering for a while but since early-2016, visas are down to a trickle. All Indian companies have received communication on fair consideration, which basically means hiring local people,” Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar told TOI. For all practical purposes, visas have stopped for our people, added another industry executive. Prompted by problems for IT and the banking sector — where there is lack of transparency on the capital requirement, the Indian government has now decided against expanding the scope of goods where import duties would be cut unless the concerns of domestic industry are addressed.

Sources told TOI that Singapore authorities were insisting on what is called “economic needs test” (ENT), which requires compliance with certain economic criteria, to deny access to Indian professionals. “They are doing it despite the CECA clearly stating that there will be no ENT or quotas on agreed services. This is a violation of the agreement,” said an Indian officer, who did not wish to be identified due to the ongoing negotiations.

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Investors unsettled as Singapore and India fight over futures

WHAT started as a business disagreement between 2 Asian exchanges has become a source of growing concern for international investors.

A fight between Singapore Exchange Ltd & National Stock Exchange of India Ltd over derivatives contracts is threatening to end a popular way of hedging Indian shares. The battle, which went to court in Mumbai this week, has left traders scrambling to find new ways to manage their exposure to the US$2.3 trillion market, one of Asia's biggest.

The dispute broke into the open in February after NSE said it was axing licensing agreements with overseas bourses. India is trying to discourage offshore trading and promote a tax-free trading zone in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, part of a broader effort by Asian nations to keep control of capital while further integrating into the global financial system. That's not a combination that appeals to money managers.

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Mumbai exchange sues Singapore bourse to stop listing of Indian futures

Singapore Exchange has been sued by the National Stock Exchange of India that wants to stop SGX from selling and trading some Indian derivative products.

NSE brought the case in a Bombay High Court on Tuesday, which led the shares in the Singapore bourse to slide to a one-month low, as the legal tussle casts a shadow over the SGX's trading outlook. NSE wants to block SGX from listing new Indian equity futures and options. It accuses SGX of drawing liquidity away from Indian bourses.

"SGX has been notified by the [NSE] of an application made in the Bombay High Court for an interim injunction on our new products," SGX said in a Tuesday press release. Ahead of the announcement, SGX suspended the trading of its own shares. When trading resumed in the morning, its stock fell 2.3% to a one-month low of 7.46 Singapore dollars apiece ($5.5).

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NSE sues Singapore Exchange in dispute over launch of new futures contracts

The National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. sued Singapore Exchange Ltd. in a Mumbai court, escalating a dispute that threatens to leave international investors without one of the world’s most widely-used offshore futures contracts.

NSE is trying to stop its Singapore counterpart from launching derivatives that could replace the Nifty 50 contracts that have traded in the city-state for 18 years and are used to hedge positions that foreigners take in one of Asia’s biggest equity markets. Indian exchanges ended agreements that allowed offshore derivatives in February, leaving SGX and others scrambling.

“SGX has been notified by NSE of an application made in the Bombay High Court for an interim injunction on our new products,” SGX said in a statement Tuesday. “We have full confidence in our legal position and will vigorously defend this action.”

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Biggest India Stock Exchange Sues Singapore Bourse

The National Stock Exchange of India Ltd sued Singapore Exchange Ltd in a Mumbai court, escalating a dispute that threatens to leave international investors without one of the world’s most widely used offshore futures contracts.

NSE is trying to stop its Singapore counterpart from launching derivatives that could replace the Nifty 50 contracts that have traded in the city-state for 18 years. Global funds use these instruments to hedge their positions in one of Asia’s biggest equity markets. Indian exchanges ended agreements that allowed offshore derivatives in February, leaving SGX and others scrambling.

“This is a big mess,” said David Shin, Asia head of global equity derivative sales at TD Securities in Singapore. “I can’t see how SGX would go through with the launch when this is in the air. There’s a lot of gray here, because if investors do trade the new contract knowing this legal case is out there, is there legal liability that cuts through to the investors of the new contracts?”

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Singapore blocks visas for Indian IT professionals

While the focus has been on the US, visas for IT professionals to work in Singapore have dropped “to a trickle”, prompting the government to put on hold the review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) citing violation of the trade pact.

With Indian companies being advised to hire local talent, they are looking at relocating some of their operations to other countries in the region. From HCL and TCS, which were the early movers to Singapore, the list has expanded to include Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and L&T Infotech. “This (visa problem) has been lingering for a while but since early-2016, visas are down to a trickle. All Indian companies have received communication on fair consideration, which basically means hiring local people,” Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar told TOI. For all practical purposes, visas have stopped for our people, added another industry executive. Prompted by problems for IT and the banking sector — where there is lack of transparency on the capital requirement, the Indian government has now decided against expanding the scope of goods where import duties would be cut unless the concerns of domestic industry are addressed.

Sources told TOI that Singapore authorities were insisting on what is called “economic needs test” (ENT), which requires compliance with certain economic criteria, to deny access to Indian professionals. “They are doing it despite the CECA clearly stating that there will be no ENT or quotas on agreed services. This is a violation of the agreement,” said an Indian officer, who did not wish to be identified due to the ongoing negotiations. 

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This Is Why Singaporeans Will Not Be Protected In Our Jobs By The Government

The government has always told us that Singapore shouldn’t introduce laws to hold companies accountable, right? The government had kept saying that we should “convince” companies to be “fair”, because “laws” might be too harsh. Even the recently-introduced ‘Fair Consideration Framework’ isn’t a new law or policy and there is no legal bite or teeth in this “framework” if companies flout this “framework”.

Do you know why this is the case? Thanks to Active Citizenry on Facebook who unearthed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) Between The Republic Of India And The Republic Of Singapore, I managed to do more research to find out why. (You can also add Active Citizenry on your Facebook here.)

Do you know that the reason why Singapore cannot introduce any laws or policies to protect the employment of Singaporeans is because that in the CECA, there is a clause which prohibits this? It is said in the CECA that both India and Singapore should not “require labour market testing” (Chart 1). In other words, labour movement between countries is “free and easy”.

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related:
Singapore-India Relations
Reflections on the Little India Riot
Lessons From The Little India Riot
Little India Riot: "Who Dares Win"
Aftermath of Little India Riots
Riot Erupts in Singapore's Little India
Singapore to become hub for Indian diaspora
Singapore, India And CECA
Singapore and India CECA