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A provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was voted down by the US Congress yesterday, handing US President Barack Obama a defeat that would have enbled the US Government to expand “free trade” with 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region including Singapore.$CUT$
The TPP, a secretive free trade initiative planned by the US, is seen by many as a plan written by big corporations to further exploit resources, labour and natural, and fatten profit-margins.
This is no clearer than the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) signed in 2003 by then PM Goh Chok Tong and President George W Bush.
At that time, the USSFTA was hailed as a wealth and job creator. The US Ambasador to Singapore back then claimed that the Agreement would create 50,000 jobs in Singapore.
Yes, wealth was created. But it was created for the multinational national corporations (MNCs) and government-linked companies (GLCs) at the expense of the middle- and lower-income groups in Singapore.
The period after the USSFTA was signed saw Singapore’s income disparity widen even as GDP expanded. Real wages stagnated as the number of millionaires and billionaires (many of whom were foreigners) increased. In the process, Singapore became the most expensive city in the world.
Jobs were also created – but mainly for foreigners. The PAP used the USSFTA to import hundreds of thousands of low-paid foreign workers to service MNCs and GLCs, increasing the profits of these companies while displacing Singaporean workers and suppressing our wages.
The SDP has spoken up against the USSFTA saying that there were no provisions in the Agreement that protected the rights – such as ensuring minimum wage legislation – of Singaporean workers.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew had then accused Dr Chee Soon Juan of undermining Singapore’s interests when the SDP secretary-general stood up for Singaporeans against the pact.
But after more than a decade of worker exploitation and widening wealth disparity, even the US lawmakers are waking up to the fact that free trade agreements in their present form benefited mainly corporations, not the people.
Members of the US House of Representatives, including many from President Obama’s own Democratic Party, voted down the TPP because they realised that the deal would not benefit American workers.
If the US Congress know how to look after their own people, why are Singaporean MPs not speaking up for our own workers?
The USSFTA is not the only problem that Singaporeans face. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA) signed with India has allowed the Asian sub-continent to press the PAP to allow even more Indian nationals to work in Singapore at the expense of our workers.
In addition, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which the PAP has pushed for, would form a single market among ASEAN nations and allow the unrestricted flow of workers across the region.
Is this the reason why the PAP has proposed a population target of 6.9 million?
The SDP reiterates our stand that it is the government’s foremost duty to protect the employment of Singaporeans, not strike trade deals that benefit foreign companies and foreign workers.
We will highlight this issue at the upcoming general elections and make it the focus of our campaign.