International Trade
S

International trade forms the backbone of Singapore's economy, which is among the most open and trade-friendly in the world . We ensure everything – from institutions and infrastructure to policies and services – encourage the free flow of goods. As a key economic pillar, total physical trade is typically more than double of Singapore's GDP.

International trade is the process of trading, selling, marketing, providing value added services, and distributing goods and services for use by a consumer or business user. The bulk of trade in Singapore involves the business-to-business (B2B) buying and selling of products, which involves many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations (MNCs).

In 2016, over 34,000 companies across seven industry segments employed 9% of Singapore's total workforce – or more than 320,000 people. These companies handled S$47.3 billion worth of merchandise, which accounted for close to 12% of the nation's GDP. The national plan to improve the industry – the Wholesale Trade Industry Transformation Map (ITM) – aims to create 10,000 new jobs by 2020.

International traders import and export a diverse range of goods that include electronics, pharmaceutical items, food, motor vehicles and commodities. They can be:

1
Brand Owners
2
Agents, brokers and commission merchants
3
Trading arms of
manufacturers and retailers
Singapore is a global trade hub for many products in 7 key clusters
Singapore is a global trade hub for many products in 7 key clusters Singapore is a global trade hub for many products in 7 key clusters
1
MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT
Electronics, Industrial Equipment
MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT
MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT
Electronics
  • 50% of the world's top 15 global electronics distributors are based in Singapore. They include Arrow Electronics, AVNET, Excelpoint Technology and Serial System
  • 6 of the world's top electronics manufacturing services companies are here too.
  • We are also a leading manufacturer of enterprise hard disk drives
  • Our electronics distribution cluster has over 2900 companies that trade chips, consumer electronics, and IT products. These companies are crucial to the electronics we use in our daily lives and drive our trade flow.
  • Some of our local electronics component distributors have research and development functions in Singapore to provide comprehensive design solutions for the global market.
Industrial equipment
  • We are a key hub that brokers and finances infrastructure deals
  • World Bank's Infrastructure and Urban Development Hub global office is based in Singapore
  • Top global companies such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Volvo Construction Equipment also have offices here
2
HOUSEHOLD GOODS
Personal Effects, Pharmaceutical, Textiles
HOUSEHOLD GOODS
HOUSEHOLD GOODS
  • Leading companies such as Charles & Keith, Luxasia, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble are based here
  • We are also a global pharmaceutical manufacturing base
  • Our consumer businesses drive regional growth strategies for Asia's consumer markets
  • Singapore has a reputation for being safe, reliable, and trustworthy
  • We also have internationally recognised standards and certification
3
AGRICULTURE MATERIALS
Agricultural Raw Materials, Food & Beverage
AGRICULTURE MATERIALS
AGRICULTURE MATERIALS
Food & Beverage (F&B)
  • Singapore ranks 4th globally for global food security (2017)
  • Top 3 F&B companies – Coca Cola, Nestle and Pepsi – are based here
  • We have rigorous food safety standards and certification
Agricultural Raw Materials
  • We are an Asia Pacific hub for grains, palm oil, rubber and sugar
  • Singapore is also the world pricing hub for rubber
  • 70% of the top agri-commodities trading companies such as Bunge, Olam and Wilmar are based here
  • 20% share of global agri-commodities trade
4
ENERGY & CHEMICALS
ENERGY & CHEMICALS
ENERGY & CHEMICALS
  • 80% of the top 30 oil & gas companies such as Hin Leong, Shell and Vitol are based here
  • Asia's largest physical oil trading hub and price discovery centre is here too.
  • We have Asia's largest concentration of oil storage, with 10 million m3 of independent oil storage capacity
  • We also have the world's largest bunkering port
5
TRANSPORT EQUIPMENT
Motor Vehicles, Parts & Accessories
TRANSPORT EQUIPMENT
TRANSPORT EQUIPMENT
  • Singapore is a base from which automotive companies such as Boeing, ST Aerospace and Toyota oversee their regional operations
  • We are a regional logistics base for aftermarket spare distribution
  • We are also Asia's leading aviation hub and leader in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul
6
GENERAL MERCHANDISE
GENERAL MERCHANDISE
GENERAL MERCHANDISE
  • Singapore is a base from which importers and exporters trade goods across other segments from Singapore
  • We are a key hub for renowned brands such as Cargill, Sime Darby, Unilever
7
OTHERS
Metals & Minerals, Construction Materials
OTHERS
OTHERS
  • Singapore is a key hub for base metals, iron ore and coal
  • Over 70% of top metals & mining companies such as Anglo-American, Pan United and Rhodium Resources are based here
  • Over 60% of top 30 steel companies are also here
  • 8 London Metal Exchange warehouses have opened here
  • We are the clearing centre for over 90% of globally-traded iron ore swaps
Strong Trade Ecosystem
Strong Trade Ecosystem Strong Trade Ecosystem
1
NETWORK OF BUYERS, SELLERS AND DECISION MAKERS
NETWORK OF BUYERS, SELLERS AND DECISION MAKERS
NETWORK OF BUYERS, SELLERS AND DECISION MAKERS
Singapore is the Asian centre for trade, home to the world's largest trading companies that generate more than US$1 trillion in annual turnover. More than 35% of the international companies place one or more top-level corporate executive in Singapore.

We also have an extensive network of players along the value chain – in supply chain, logistics, financing and other related services. This creates an effective and neutral marketplace for traders to better exchange information and structure deals.
2
FINANCIAL AND TRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
FINANCIAL AND TRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
FINANCIAL AND TRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
Trade documentation is a breeze with TradeNet, the world's first national single window for trade that brings together more than 35 border agencies. The National Trade Platform, rolled out at the end of 2017, will succeed TradeNet as a trade and logistics IT ecosystem. It connects businesses, community systems and platforms, and government systems.
3
PHYSICAL FLOWS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
PHYSICAL FLOWS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
PHYSICAL FLOWS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Singapore is located at the heart of Asian trade routes, a natural gateway to many major growth economies, as well as the world's largest commodity consumers and producers. Around 30% of all Asian trade is conducted through Singapore, which is along the Straits of Malacca – the second largest trade route globally for crude oil /petroleum transportation.

Our physical infrastructure and world-class logistics facilitates international trade. Singapore topped the rankings in Asia in the 2016 World Bank Logistics Performance Index. Our port was also ranked Asia's best seaport in 2017. This is complemented by excellent processing and storage facilities. We are not only home to the world's largest bunkering port, but also store the highest concentration of oil in Asia.
4
HUMAN CAPITAL
HUMAN CAPITAL
HUMAN CAPITAL
As a global trading centre, Singapore employs over 325,000 people in the international trade sector – accounting for 9% of Singapore's workforce in 2016. Within the industry, the commodities sector employs 15,000 people and has the largest pool of trading talent in the world, after London, New York City, and Houston.

To ensure the sustainability of the international sector, a strategy is in place to build a strong talent pool with new skills sets. These skills include digital marketing, data analytics and global supply chain to address new business models. Local tertiary institutes offer programmes with hands-on internships for students, while Professional Conversion Programmes provide opportunities for professionals to learn new skills and make a career switch into international trade.
5
LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
Singapore has a stable government, transparent legal framework, and strong rule of law. The 2017 Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions index ranked the nation first in Asia and sixth worldwide. We are the only Asian country in the index's top 10.

We are also the top arbitration centre in Asia and the seventh globally (International Chamber of Commerce, 2016). The Singapore International Arbitration Centre handles more than 200 new cases annually, with 63% comprising trade or shipping-related issues. An increasing number of clients from India, China, South Korea and the US are using Singapore for arbitration—highlighting the increasing use of Singaporean law to anchor business contracts in Asia.
6
GENERAL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
GENERAL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
GENERAL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
Singapore offers a first-class business environment. We took the second spot in the World Bank's 2016 annual rankings for the easiest place to do business, previously topping the charts for a decade until 2015.

To further ease business transactions for traders, freight forwarders who are members of Singapore Logistics Association now enjoy cost and time savings when shipping goods to Thailand and Malaysia through Singapore's Global e-trade services. Traders can also look forward to the National Trade Platform in 2018, when freight management and trade financing services will be integrated by Singapore Customs to improve cross-border trade processes.

Singapore offers unparalleled connectivity to passenger and cargo, as one of the world's top transportation hubs for sea and air cargo. Our seaport is connected to more than 600 ports in 120 countries, while Changi Airport is linked to some 380 cities in 80 countries, with more than 7,000 weekly flights.
7
TAX POLICY
TAX POLICY
TAX POLICY
Singapore's simple and business-friendly tax system offers global businesses a sustainable and stable platform for growth. Income tax rates are competitive for both companies (17%) and individuals (maximum tax rate of 22%).

The Global Trader Programme (GTP) offers reduced corporate tax rates of 5% or 10% on qualifying trading income for three or five years to well-established international trading companies committed to expanding their operations in Singapore. Singapore also established a network of over 70 comprehensive Avoidance of Double Taxation agreements to prevent double taxation of income earned in one country by a resident of another country.
Boost Capabilities
Boost Capabilities Boost Capabilities
With improved digital connectivity and the emergence of new platforms, B2B e-commerce is projected to reach a staggering US$6.7 trillion by 2020. Singapore is aiming for a large slice of this market, building digital marketplaces and attracting global players. Here are some programmes that will enhance your capabilities in this field.
National Trade Platform (NTP)
National Trade Platform (NTP)
The NTP is a one-stop trade information platform that allows digital data exchange between businesses involved in trade and logistics. Through shared digital documents and integrated B2B and Business-to-Government processes, the NTP allows enterprises to connect seamlessly to business partners and regulatory authorities.
ASEAN Digital Trade Facilitation Platform
ASEAN Digital Trade Facilitation Platform
Linking the Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) to other ASEAN logistic associations, this platform allows companies to benefit from customs clearance through a single outlet. This enables wholesale traders in the region to operate in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
Cross Border Cognitive Supply Chain Solution
Cross Border Cognitive Supply Chain Solution
IBM and Global eTrade Services (GeTs) developed a digital trade platform that connects 350,000 trading partners on IBM's Supply Chain Business Network to 18 global Custom nodes that will automate customs declaration. This leads to more efficient cross-border transaction of goods.
Go Global
Go Global Go Global
International trade connects countries and citizens, sustaining economies in a globalised world. As a critical pillar of our open economy, we support the global exchange of goods and services through several initiatives such as our comprehensive network of free trade agreements. There are also overseas opportunities for companies to explore.
Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs)
Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs)
FTAs are treaties between two or more economies to reduce or remove trade barriers and bring closer economic integration. FTAs encourage and promote businesses of all sizes to trade both regionally and internationally. Singapore has a network of 21 implemented FTAs with 32 trading partners.

FTAs consists of three main areas:
  1. Trade in Goods
    To remove tariffs and address non-tariff measures.
  2. Trade in Services
    Deals with regulations to ensure market access. Singapore service suppliers enjoy preferential trade commitments from our FTA partners.
  3. Investment
    Seeks to protect and promote investment.
Develop Talent
Develop Talent Develop Talent

International trade is a key growth sector that will continue to create jobs amid the changing global landscape. With 10,000 new jobs expected by 2020, we need to ensure that our people have appropriate training and experience. Training programmes will be available for both entry-level graduates and mid-career professionals.
International Trade and Business Diploma
International Trade and Business Diploma
Launched in February 2018, this diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic is the first international trade related programme designed to help students hone their skills in supply chain management, digital business solutions and data analytics.
Minor Programme in International Trade
Minor Programme in International Trade
Introduced by the Singapore University of Social Sciences, this curriculum allows part-time adult learners to develop relevant expertise for the trading sector through on-the-job learning. The curriculum includes modules that address digitalisation trends, such as Internet and Social Media marketing.
Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for International Trading Executives
Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for International Trading Executives
Hosted by Singapore Management University (SMU), this programme equips mid-career professionals for a career in this sector through a 'place and train' model.
Other useful information:
Free Trade Agreements>

Find out how Free Trade Agreements can help grow your export business.

Programmes to develop talent for your company>

Find out how we can help your company fill international job roles.

Enterprise Singapore's assistance for local companies>

Find out how our programmes can help your company go global.

Events>

Interested to network with like-minded people? Join our events.