An island country and sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia, the Republic of Singapore shipped US$374.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 13.4% increase since 2016 but a -4.1% decline from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Singapore dollar appreciated by 0.1% against the US dollar since 2016 but declined by -1.1% from 2019 to 2020. Singapore’s weaker local currency since 2019 makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers during 2020.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 77.9% of products exported from Singapore were bought by importers in: China (13.8% of the global total), Hong Kong (12.4%), United States (10.7%), Malaysia (8.9%), Indonesia (5.7%), Taiwan (4.9%), Japan (4.8%), South Korea (4.5%), Thailand (3.8%), Vietnam (3.3%), Netherlands (2.7%) and India (2.5%).
From a continental perspective, 71.0% of Singapore exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 11.4% were sold to North American importers. Singapore shipped another 10.6% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia, Marshall Islands and New Zealand (3.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.7%) then Africa (1.3%).
Given Singapore’s population of 5.77 million people, its total $374.2 billion in 2020 exports translates to a formidable $64,900 for every resident in the exports-dependent nation.
Singapore’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Singaporean global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Singapore.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$132.2 billion (35.3% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $58.2 billion (15.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $30.3 billion (8.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $20.8 billion (5.6%)
- Gems, precious metals: $20.3 billion (5.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $12.9 billion (3.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $11.4 billion (3%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $9.6 billion (2.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $8.9 billion (2.4%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $6 billion (1.6%)
Singapore’s top 10 exports represent 83% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 14.5% from 2019 to 2020 propelled by higher international revenues of gold. In second place for improving export sales were miscellaneous food preparations via a 11.5% gain. Singapore’s shipments of pharmaceuticals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 10%.
The leading decliner among Singapore’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -36.7% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Singapore’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Overall, Singapore posted a $45.1 billion trade surplus in 2020. Singapore’s trade surplus grew 43.8% from $31.4 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Singaporean product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$23.3 billion (Up by 3.2% since 2019)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $8 billion (Down by -5.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $5.7 billion (Down by -5.9%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $5.3 billion (Up by 9.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $5.31 billion (Up by 8%)
- Machinery including computers: $5.24 billion (Up by 430.2%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $5 billion (Up by 12.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $4.3 billion (Down by -24.3%)
- Other chemical goods: $1.7 billion (Down by -20.8%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $644.1 million (Down by -39.6%)
Singapore has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electronics including consumer gadgets. In turn, these cashflows indicate Singapore’s strong competitive advantages under the electrical machinery and equipment category.
Below are exports from Singapore that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Singapore’s goods trail Singaporean importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$18.9 billion (Down by -30.9% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: -$2.2 billion (Up by 102.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$1.3 billion (Up by 105.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.2 billion (Down by -0.9%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1 billion (Down by -74.3%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$883.4 million (Up by 736.8%)
- Meat: -$862.8 million (Up by 12.7%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$806 million (Up by 0.4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$795.2 million (Down by -19.1%)
- Glass: -$739.4 million (Up by 3.1%)
Singapore has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related goods, particularly crude oil, petroleum gases and refined petroleum oils.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Singapore’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Singapore to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially alternative energy sources.
Singaporean Export Companies
Seventeen corporations based in Singapore rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Singaporean export companies that Forbes included.
- Wilmar International (food processing)
- Keppel Corp (industrial conglomerates)
- Flextronics International (electronics)
- Avago Technologies (semiconductors)
- ST Engineering (aerospace )
- Olam International (food processing)
- Golden Agri-Resources (food processing)
- China Aviation Oil (jet fuel trading)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Singapore. Selected examples are shown below.
- Singapore Technologies Engineering (electronics manufacturing)
- Medical Technology (medical/healthcare equipment)
- Singapore Telecommunications Limited (communications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Singaporean export companies.
- Wajilam Export Singapore (wood, chocolate)
- Asahi Glass Singapore (glass sheets)
- Sephora Singapore (copper pipes/tubes, cabinets)
- Ltt Veneer Singapore (soybean flours, hams)
Searchable List of Singapore’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Singapore during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Singapore's Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Processed petroleum oils||$27,455,933,000||-40.2%|
|5||Phone system devices including smartphones||$11,646,266,000||+1.8%|
|6||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$11,258,977,000||+31.9%|
|7||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$9,266,015,000||+26%|
|8||Computers, optical readers||$7,331,066,000||-3.3%|
|9||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$6,246,686,000||-0.4%|
|10||Other food preparations||$5,833,192,000||+12.3%|
|12||Medication mixes in dosage||$5,167,036,000||+19.3%|
|13||Unrecorded sound media||$4,919,365,000||+15.8%|
|16||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$4,209,399,000||+3.9%|
|17||Computer parts, accessories||$4,129,005,000||-2.5%|
|18||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$3,283,702,000||+2.6%|
|20||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$2,609,228,000||+2.2%|
|23||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$2,494,357,000||+48.2%|
|24||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$2,408,645,000||-0.1%|
|26||Other measuring/testing machines||$2,194,534,000||-1.6%|
|27||Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing||$1,948,314,000||+5%|
|30||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$1,753,451,000||-22.9%|
|36||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$1,456,875,000||+1.8%|
|37||Electrical converters/power units||$1,453,267,000||+2.2%|
|39||Cases, handbags, wallets||$1,439,632,000||-9.4%|
|41||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$1,375,814,000||-7.5%|
|42||Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers||$1,364,716,000||+20.3%|
|43||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,355,877,000||+3.3%|
|45||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$1,158,095,000||-16.4%|
|46||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$1,147,249,000||+151.9%|
|47||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,129,358,000||-20.9%|
|48||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$1,073,618,000||-27.6%|
|49||Chemicals used in electronics||$1,051,818,000||-10.8%|
|50||Precious metal waste, scrap||$1,010,950,000||-23.2%|
|54||Perfumes, toilet waters||$959,464,000||-11.9%|
|56||Electric storage batteries||$874,927,000||-9.4%|
|57||Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)||$853,460,000||-7.8%|
|58||Lighting assembly machines||$830,074,000||+85%|
|59||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$830,009,000||-4.8%|
|60||Ball, roller bearings||$828,060,000||-16.2%|
|61||Petroleum oil residues||$815,528,000||-19%|
|63||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$778,016,000||+10.5%|
|64||Air or vacuum pumps||$755,688,000||-10.1%|
|65||Saturated acyclic mono acids||$732,694,000||+5.2%|
|66||Piston engine parts||$728,432,000||-50.2%|
|69||Miscellaneous plastic items||$714,090,000||-2.6%|
|70||Liquid pumps and elevators||$697,042,000||-16.6%|
|71||Chemical industry products/residuals||$665,499,000||-15.1%|
|75||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$610,267,000||-6.3%|
|76||Dried organs, heparin||$604,680,000||-10.2%|
|77||Electric motors, generators||$593,420,000||-22.2%|
|79||TV/radio/radar device parts||$532,923,000||-20.5%|
|86||Radar, radio communication items||$487,843,000||-31%|
|88||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$461,302,000||-19.2%|
|89||Lenses, prisms, mirrors||$458,156,000||-8.7%|
|90||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$453,931,000||-4.6%|
|91||Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes||$449,999,000||+220.7%|
|93||Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)||$444,349,000||-15.5%|
|95||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$442,804,000||-9.1%|
|97||Cellulose fiber paper||$430,711,000||-15.5%|
|98||Other organic cleaning preparations||$429,124,000||+8%|
|99||Self-adhesive plastic in rolls||$427,954,000||-14%|
|100||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$407,612,000||+7.4%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$314.3 billion or 84% by value for all products exported from Singapore during 2020.
See also Singapore’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Singapore’s Top Trading Partners and Singapore’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 1, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 1, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 1, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Singapore. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 1, 2021
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 1, 2021