SINGAPORE, July 1 — Parliament is set to debate the issue of free trade agreements (FTAs) when it sits next week, as they have been linked to an “undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians”, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (July 1), Mr Ong said that this undercurrent, which has been simmering in the past two years, could be seen in the recent incidents of verbal and physical assaults on Indians, which he said were “disturbing and not reflective of what Singaporeans are”.
While there are concerns from Singaporeans that need to be addressed, he said the unhappiness is also fuelled “in no small part” by false allegations by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) about how the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) has given Indian professionals, managers and executives “a free hand to come here to work”.
Ceca is a free trade deal signed between the two countries in 2005.
Mr Ong noted that during the last Parliament sitting in May, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had invited Mr Leong Mun Wai, a non-constituency Member of Parliament (MP) from PSP, to table a parliamentary motion on Ceca.
In the run up to the filing of PSP’s motion, he said, the ministers have received many parliamentary questions on the matter, including from PSP.
To answer these questions, Mr Ong said he and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng will deliver a ministerial statement to address these questions. Mr Ong will be speaking as a former trade negotiator.
“We will explain how vital FTAs are to Singapore and how they work (and) will address in particular the false allegations that FTAs allow foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore,” said Mr Ong.
Last month, Mr Leong had said in a Facebook post that PSP is prepared to take on Mr Shanmugam’s challenge to have a “thorough debate on Singapore’s employment policies”, adding that he has filed several questions seeking additional information in preparation for the debate.
“We are confident that Singaporeans will benefit from the disclosure of more information from the Government during the parliamentary debate and call on the Government to engage in the debate with grace, openness, transparency and trust that we all have Singapore’s interests at heart,” he said. — TODAY