Nicknamed the Fine Country, the Republic of Singapore is a Southeast Asian island strategically located near China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.
Singapore shipped US$411.7 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents roughly 2.3% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion for the prior year.
Assuming a continental lens, almost three-quarters (73%) of Singaporean exports by value are delivered to fellow Asian countries while another 10% is sold to European importers. Singapore ships 8.2% worth of products to North American clients.
Smaller percentages are delivered to Oceania (4.9%) led by Australia, Latin America (2.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Africa (1.4%).
Singapore’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Singapore’s top trading partners. That is, these are countries that imported the most Singaporean export shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Singaporean exports.
- China: US$50.4 billion (12.2% of total Singaporean exports)
- Hong Kong: $48.6 billion (11.8%)
- Malaysia: $44.9 billion (10.9%)
- Indonesia: $33 billion (8%)
- United States: $31.9 billion (7.7%)
- Japan: $20 billion (4.9%)
- Taiwan: $17 billion (4.1%)
- South Korea: $15.7 billion (3.8%)
- Thailand: $15.6 billion (3.8%)
- Australia: $12.7 billion (3.1%)
- India: $12.3 billion (3%)
- Vietnam: $12 billion (2.9%)
- Netherlands: $8.9 billion (2.2%)
- Philippines: $8 billion (1.9%)
- Germany: $6.4 billion (1.6%)
Over four-fifths (81.9%) of Singaporean exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Twelve of the 15 top importers increased their purchases from Singapore from 2014 to 2018. Gains ranged from a modest 2.1% increase in consumption for Taiwan up to 31.8% increase for the United States.
There were three declines over the 5-year period specifically for importers in China (down -6.7%), South Korea (down -6.4%) and Vietnam (down -2.2%).
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Singapore incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- Taiwan: -US$14.4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Saudi Arabia: -$11.9 billion
- United States: -$10.2 billion
- Switzerland: -$7.7 billion
- France: -$6.6 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$6 billion
- Qatar: -$6 billion
- Russia: -$5.2 billion
- Kuwait: -$3.9 billion
- Germany: -$3.7 billion
Among Singapore’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Singaporean deficits with Saudi Arabia (up 42.4%), Taiwan (up 37.2%) and Kuwait (up 29.7%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Singapore’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Singapore to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Singapore posted an overall $41.3 billion trade surplus in 2018, down by -9.4% from $45.5 billion in black ink one year earlier.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Singapore incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- Hong Kong: US$45 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Indonesia: $17.7 billion
- Vietnam: $8.6 billion
- Thailand: $7.3 billion
- Australia: $7.2 billion
- Panama: $6.2 billion
- India: $5.1 billion
- Cambodia: $4.6 billion
- Netherlands: $4.6 billion
- Belgium: $3.8 billion
Among Singapore’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Singaporean surpluses with Cambodia (up 70.5%), Indonesia (up 38.4%) and India (up 35.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Singapore’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Singapore to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Singaporean Trading Partners
Seventeen corporations 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)
See also Singapore’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Singapore’s Top 10 Exports, Singapore’s Top 10 Imports and Top Asian Export Countries
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 3, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 3, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on March 3, 2019
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 3, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 3, 2019