While the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) issued a statement indicating that Singaporeans are “understandable” with competition from skilled workers, managers and foreign executives (SMEs) due to the current sluggish economic and employment situation. However, it is “misleading” to say that the number of Indian SMEs, particularly intragroup takers, is exclusively or largely transferred to the ECSC. MTI also rejected the fact that “none of our free trade agreements, including Ceca, require us to automatically provide employment passports to every foreigner.” In addition, “all foreigners applying for a work card must meet our predominant criteria and all companies must respect fair hiring rules.” Despite the government`s clarification on this issue, citizens in the network remain skeptical of the Singapore-India free trade agreement.  The ECSC began in April 2002, when then-Prime Minister Goh Choc Tong and then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that they would explore the benefits of a closer economic relationship between the two countries in order to conclude a comprehensive economic partnership agreement within one year. In 2005, the two nations signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Economic Cooperation (ECSC) and organized the India-Singapore Parliamentary Forum and the Singapore-India Partnership Foundation, with the active support of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICC), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Singapore Federation of Business to promote trade, economic development and partnerships.    The ECSC removes customs barriers, double taxation, dual procedures and rules, and has granted unfettered access and cooperation between singapore and India`s financial institutions.   The ECSC has also strengthened bilateral cooperation in the fields of education, science and technology, intellectual property, aviation and has enabled Indian specialists in information technology, medicine, engineering and finance.   Singapore has invested in projects to modernize Indian ports, airports and the development of information technology parks and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).  India has become Singapore`s fourth largest tourist destination and more than 650,000 Indians visited Singapore in 2006. The two nations have collaborated in the fields of aeronautics, aerospace, space programs, information technology, biotechnology and energy.  Lee Hsien Loong and then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed Ceca in 2005. Senior officials in Singapore have repeatedly stressed that everything that has been agreed “is subject to Singapore`s local rules,” whether it is access to Singapore`s financial services market or professional services.
LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO After 13 rounds of negotiations, the ECSC was signed on 29 June 2005 during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong`s state visit to India. Cuts to World Sentosa resorts last week – and reports that Marina Bay Sands will likely follow suit – have brought even more access to this mill. Singapore`s two dozen or so free trade agreements, particularly those in which trade in services have been explicitly included in agreements, such as India and Australia, are an easy goal of mistrust.