Sri Lanka Singapore FTA has not freed the movement of professionals: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – A free trade deal with Singapore has not allowed professionals to freely come to Sri Lanka to work but only relates to executives who will come help set up a business, when an investment is made, Minister of International Trade Malik Samarawickrama said

The Singapore Sri Lanka agreement did not deal with ‘Mode 04’ or the movement of people to provide services in another country, he said.

Samarawickreme said even now some managers did move when businesses were set up.

Sri Lanka’s nationalists had made charges that thousands of Singaporeans nationals or resident card holders will come and swamp the country.

Singapore however has a modified currency board and not a money printing central bank like Sri Lanka and the country has a strong currency, which has kept salaries high, productivity growing.

"Understandably there may be fears," Samararawickreme said. "But this was no done in secret and we have also made professional associations aware. The agreement has also been made public."

Though the government has limited foreigners working here, analysts say the free movement of people is one of the factors behind fast growing countries like Singapore, who carry knowledge and skills which are then transferred.

It is relatively easy for foreigners also to work in Vietnam, which along with free trade as made it an economic powerhouse in two decades, and poverty has collapsed.

If managers and trainers are easier to move, companies would also prefer to move into countries where they can easily put their own supervisors and managers to ensure quality and output in the initial years, analysts say.

Samarawickreme said there was no truth that the free trade agreement will result in a flood of imports from all countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations via Singapore.





"There are clear rules of origin," he said. "There has to be 35 percent domestic value addition to qualify."

Countries in the ASEAN region have however become economic power houses by trading among themselves with very low value addition, setting up global value chains, which a combination of nationalism and Mercantilism had kept South Asia poor, analysts say. (Colombo/May05/2018)

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