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Free trade agreements open doors to better jobs for Singaporeans, says Heng Swee Keat

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Singapore’s free trade agreements with other countries have not jeopardised employment opportunities for Singaporeans, DPM Heng Swee Keat said on Sunday (Aug 23).

On the contrary, it has opened doors for better jobs.

“In fact, what we are doing is to ensure that it creates better jobs for Singaporeans,” he said.

These agreements help draw investments from abroad. They also pave the way for Singaporean firms to invest overseas and be fairly treated there, Mr Heng said.

“This in turn creates jobs back home.”

It is Singapore’s sovereign rights to determine who becomes a citizen or a permanent resident here, or who gets awarded an employment pass. These rights are not signed away in any trade agreement.

There are proper channels in place to protect Singaporeans against discriminatory hiring practices, like the Fair Consideration Framework.

Mr Heng cited a group of 47 companies placed on the watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practice. These companies will be closely monitored. Their employment pass applications will be scrutinized. Recalcitrant and uncooperative employers will have their work pass privileges cut back.

Mr Heng was responding to questions at the East Coast Conversations virtual event that was live-streamed on Facebook.

Highest trade to GDP ratio in the world. What does this mean?

Singapore is a small and open economy, highly dependent on trade to survive. It has the highest trade to GDP ratio in the world.

What does this mean for the country? This means that the country’s GDP consists mainly of revenue generated from exports and imports.

Being highly dependent on trade means that Singapore is highly vulnerable to the winds of change in the world.

Making the world our hinterland

Singapore is too small a market for Singapore companies to be able to expand and grow. Our free trade agreements open up market access and benefit our companies thereby creating opportunities and potential for them to grow and become global companies.

Free Trade Agreements and their relevance

Free trade agreements create a more accountable and fair trading relationship between two or more countries.

In a world where more and more countries are turning inwards and protectionist and trade wars are being waged with ugly consequences, free trade agreements help to protect against unfair trading practices.

This is especially important to Singapore as we are dependent on trade for survival. We are too small to be able to sustain ourselves with a domestic economy.

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