More space sought for professionals in S’pore

The Economic Times

India will seek greater access for its professionals in Singapore in areas such as IT, health, education and finance in the upcoming review of the bilateral agreement between the two countries. The second review of the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement or CECA that was rolled out in 2005 will begin early next month.

“Although we managed to get access for some of our professionals in Singapore as part of the CECA, we will try to get more in the review,” a commerce ministry official said.

Commerce department is holding consultations with the industry and other ministries to finalise how much more it could offer Singapore in exchange for greater access in services.

Singapore has already got a lot of concessions as part of India’s free trade agreement with the ten member Asean countries.

Experts expect some incremental demands such as lower tariff barriers for additional goods such as metals, chemicals, textiles and capital goods.

Singapore has already recognised some medical colleges like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Christian Medical College in Vellore as part of the CECA.

Degree holders from these colleges can now practice in Singapore as doctors without additional local qualifications. It has also recognised some nursing colleges in the country.

“We want that Singapore should go beyond recognising just premier colleges and a proper mutual recognition agreement should be in place which would provide for both countries recognising each others degrees in given areas,” the official said.

India is, however, not going to seek additional concessions for its banks as it is yet to take full advantage of what is on offer as part of the original CECA.

“The CECA allows qualified full banking status for three banks and we have had only two banks so far (SBI and ICICI) seeking such a status in Singapore,” the official said.

According to Manab Majumdar of Ficci, India has some time to zero in on exactly what it wants as the review would go on for a year.

“The launch meeting in May will be more for setting the agenda which will be discussed in the months ahead. Indian industry would certainly like, among others, to seek greater market access in the Singapore service industry,” he said.

The agreement was first reviewed in 2007 when tariff reduction commitments were taken for an additional 539 products by India increasing coverage to 93% of traded goods from 83%.

The Indian industry had, initially, complained that the CECA had resulted in a sharper increase in flow of goods from Singapore than of exports from India to the country. The government could use this point to seek greater access in services.

“Singapore already had very low duties on its goods, so our reduction in duties was much steeper. We expect to make gains in services and the process has already started,” the official said.

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