No obligation under Ceca for Singapore authorities to grant Indian nationals PR status or citizenship: MTI

Those who are transferred from a company's overseas unit to Singapore come from a wide range of countries. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There is no provision under the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) for Indian nationals to become Singapore permanent residents and citizens, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

And it is not true that Ceca requires Singapore authorities to automatically grant employment passes to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) from India who want to work here, it added.

The ministry, in a statement on Thursday (Aug 27), was responding to media queries after the merits of the pact, which was signed in 2005, have again come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

None of Singapore's free trade agreements, including Ceca, make it an obligation for Singapore to automatically grant employment passes (EPs) to any foreign nationals, the statement said.

"All foreign nationals applying for EP must meet our prevailing criteria, and all companies must comply with rules on fair hiring," the statement added.

Singaporeans are understandably concerned about competition from foreign professionals, managers, and executives amid the challenging economic and employment situation, said MTI.

However, it is misleading to attribute the number of Indians in such professions solely or mainly to Ceca, it added. This was especially so, MTI said, for "intra-corporate transferees" or those who are transferred from a company's overseas unit to Singapore.

This category of workers in Singapore have consistently been at below 5 per cent of all employment pass holders in Singapore, the statement said.

They also come from a wide range of countries, with Indian nationals making up only a small segment, it added.

Under Ceca, such transferees are required to have worked for their company for a period of not less than six months, among other things.

They are also allowed to stay for a total period of not more than eight years.

This is not the first time Ceca has come under the spotlight.

Claims that the bilateral trade agreement has allowed Indian nationals to take PMET jobs meant for Singaporeans re-emerged last year, after an expletive-laden video surfaced online showing a man originally from India lashing out at a security guard at a condominium.

During last month's election campaign, opposition parties such as the Progress Singapore Party, proposed that the terms of Ceca be revised.

Proponents say the pact has helped to eliminate most tariff barriers to access the Indian market, and it has enabled banks to provide integrated banking services in India, among other things.

Correction note: A previous version of this report mis-stated that a man in a video that surfaced last year was an Indian national. We are sorry for the error.

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