Singapore's free trade agreements (FTAs) have come under the spotlight, particularly online, because of accusations that one such agreement, with India, has given Indian professionals unfettered access to jobs and citizenship here. Of Singapore's 24 FTAs, the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) has often provided fodder for critics who argue that it has opened the floodgates for Indian nationals to enter Singapore. Recently, participants at a Speakers' Corner gathering in Hong Lim Park denounced the agreement. This occurred after a video of a foreign-born condominium resident berating a security guard went viral. Clearly, a single incident involving an individual's unacceptable behaviour provided the momentum, again, for expressions of economic distrust of foreigners here.
This is troubling. Singapore by definition is a global city. It exists and thrives in the economic space created by much larger countries by plugging into the opportunities created by expansive trade and economic interaction. This formula has worked for Singapore since its modern incarnation in 1819. It was upheld during the Cold War, when Singapore reinvented itself by joining the nascent forces of globalisation and going against nativist trends of economic nationalism and trade protectionism adopted by many countries. Following the end of that war, in which the logic of globalisation won over calls for closed economic borders, Singapore has moved to the forefront of the global discourse on globalisation.