The second review of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to boost two-way trade remains inconclusive despite efforts to expedite the process. The review process has been stuck for six years over the issue of India demanding more access in that market for its professionals and banks. According to Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia, “The India-Singapore CECA was one of the earlier agreements done by India with any country covering trade in goods, trade in services and investment. Singapore has been a great trading partner. There have been issues in concluding the second round of CECA. These are minor issues but they are integral to the original CECA.”
Speaking at the launch of the study report ‘India-Singapore CECA: An Appraisal of Progress’ authored by VS Seshadri, vice chairman, Research and Information System for Developing countries (RIS), the commerce secretary pointed out issues including Asset Management Ratio (AMR) for banks; employment and other issues that are restricting movements; sharing Custom Data & Rules of Origin, need to be addressed. “Every trade engagement requires India to open its markets for other partners,” she added.
Preeti Saran, secretary (east) MEA, said, “This is the good time to review the India-Singapore CECA. It is also coinciding with the 25th India-ASEAN anniversary. Also, next year Singapore will be assuming presidency of ASEAN.” According to Saran, defence and security also forms a crucial part of the strategic partnership between the two countries. “We have strong navy to navy cooperation. We have offered our facilities to the army and Air Force of Singapore.” The study maps out the trend in India’s bilateral merchandise exports which showed an upward movement in the initial years after CECA but which has in recent years declined.
Since Singapore has zero MFN duties for practically all the goods, tariffs play no part in the competition. Significant efforts will be needed by Indian exporters to strengthen export prospects in potential areas. Last year, during a meeting between Prime Minster Narendra Modi and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, both had decided to “expedite” the second review of the CECA to boost two-way trade.