Singaporeans are anxious about their jobs. There is also a great deal of disruption in our lives and workplaces due to the COVID-19 situation. With globalisation and rapid technological advancement, business cycles are short and disruptions take place. Businesses that face difficulties may scale down or shut down. When this happens, jobs will be lost.
This loss of jobs has nothing to do with Free Trade Agreements. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) give businesses access to global supply chains and markets and facilitate the free flow of goods and services.
Disruptions to business cycles are not something we can control or prevent. The way to deal with disruptions is to create new opportunities for Singaporeans, and not attack FTAs. Singapore’s multilateral agreements, in fact, help in this process by making us an attractive place for international companies to invest in. They also provide our local companies with access to foreign markets so that they can grow.
CECA, like any of our other FTAs, does not take away jobs. The provision in Chapter 9 of its legal text for the free flow of natural persons, as lawyer and MP Vikram Nair explained, is for a temporary purpose. It facilitates the movement of people between the 2 countries who wish to visit for business purposes. Does it take away jobs? No. But it has the potential to create new jobs because more business start-ups mean more jobs.
“Do free trade agreements like CECA allow foreigners to become Singapore citizens, PRs or get long term work passes? Short answer is “no” – this is expressly carved out in CECA under Article 9.1 clause 2. Anyone who has read CECA would have known this,” Mr Vikram said.
The real cause of job losses is business disruption. FTAs like CECA help to bring in new opportunities that will help mitigate this. The big challenge of course is to help those who are caught up in the disruption to retrain and reskill to take up the new opportunities, which both the government and the unions have a heavy focus on.