Nicknamed the Fine Country, the Republic of Singapore is a Southeast Asian island strategically located near China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.
Singapore exported US$390.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 9.1% increase since 2015 but a -5.2% setback from 2018 to 2019.
Applying a continental lens, almost three-quarters (72.5%) of Singapore’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 10.1% were sold to importers in Europe. Singapore shipped another 9.5% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (4.6%) led by Australia, Marshall Islands and New Zealand, Latin America (1.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean then 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 2019. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Singaporean exports.
- China: US$51.6 billion (13.2% of Singapore’s total exports)
- Hong Kong: $44.4 billion (11.4%)
- Malaysia: $41.2 billion (10.5%)
- United States: $34.4 billion (8.8%)
- Indonesia: $27.4 billion (7%)
- Japan: $17.6 billion (4.5%)
- Taiwan: $16.4 billion (4.2%)
- Thailand: $15.4 billion (3.9%)
- South Korea: $15.2 billion (3.9%)
- Vietnam: $13 billion (3.3%)
- India: $11.4 billion (2.9%)
- Australia: $11.3 billion (2.9%)
- Netherlands: $8.6 billion (2.2%)
- Philippines: $8.5 billion (2.2%)
- Germany: $5.8 billion (1.5%)
Over four-fifths (82.5%) of Singaporean exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Four of the above top importers increased their purchases from Singapore from 2018 to 2019. Singapore increased its export sales to the United States by the most from 2018 to 2019 thanks to an 8% gain. In second place was Vietnam (up 7.8%) trailed by the Philippines (up 7.2%) and China (up 2.4%).
Leading the decliners were importers in Indonesia (down -17%), Japan (down -11.8%) and Australia (down -10.9%).
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$16 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- United States: -$9.5 billion
- France: -$7.8 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$7.5 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$7.5 billion
- Qatar: -$4.4 billion
- United Kingdom: -$4.2 billion
- Russia: -$4.2 billion
- Germany: -$4.1 billion
- Switzerland: -$3.9 billion
Among Singapore’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Singaporean deficits with United Kingdom (up 42%), United Arab Emirates (up 24.8%) and France (up 18.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
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.
Overall, Singapore posted a $41.3 billion trade surplus in 2019. Singapore’s trade surplus decreased -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$40.9 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- Indonesia: $11.8 billion
- Vietnam: $9.3 billion
- Thailand: $7.7 billion
- Netherlands: $5.5 billion
- India: $5.1 billion
- Australia: $5 billion
- Panama: $4.1 billion
- Belgium: $3.2 billion
- Myanmar (Burma): $3 billion
Among Singapore’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Singaporean surpluses with Netherlands (up 18.6%), Myanmar sometimes called Burma (up 15.3%) and Vietnam (up 8.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
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
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 29, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 29, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 29, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 29, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 29, 2020