Singapore
Market Access Plan 2015-2017

CapitalPopulationTotal AreaCurrency
Singapore5.5 million700 km²Singapore dollar (SGD)

Why Singapore Matters

Singapore is:

  • a priority emerging market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan;
  • one of the most dynamic, pro-business and liberalized economies in the world with a population of almost 5.5 million and GDP of more than $359.5 billion in 2014;
  • a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which represents a market of more than 625 million people and a regional GDP of over US$2.3 trillion in 2014 ; and
  • a global financial centre, boasting the world's second busiest port and sixth busiest airport.

Singapore’s innovative economy is a hub for finance, transportation, education, life sciences, high tech manufacturing, and research and development. It has a skilled work force, efficient infrastructure, strong intellectual property protection, a pro-business environment, and good corporate governance. Singapore’s excellent transportation infrastructure continues to attract large volumes of tourists and cargo. Due to Singapore’s proximity to major regional markets and its very attractive operating environment, the city-state competes directly with Hong Kong and Sydney as a location for regional headquarters.

Domestic Economic Environment

With economic growth projected at 2.0-4.0 percent for 2015, Singapore continues to expand at a relatively robust pace compared to most other advanced markets. Furthermore, as a gateway to China, India and the Southeast Asian region, it continues to offer many opportunities for Canadian companies to access regional value chains. Moreover, its sovereign wealth funds have an estimated S$250 billion to invest.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) forecasts core inflation to average 0.05 to 1.5 percent in 2015. MAS projects that core inflation will ease further before rising at the end of the year and into 2016.

Key Figures – Singapore (2014)
GDP$340.0 billion
GDP per capita$62,160
GDP growth2.9%
Inflation1.0%
Unemployment2.0%
Canada’s merchandise exports$1,308.7 million
Canada’s merchandise imports$1,155.0 million
Canada’s service exports$921 million
Canada’s service imports$1,774 million
Foreign direct investment from Singapore into Canada$695 million
Canadian direct investment in Singapore$2,963 million
Potential long-term annual export growth4.0%

Canadian Commercial Interests in Singapore

Overview

In 2014, the value of Canada’s bilateral merchandise trade with Singapore was $2.5 billion, an 8.4 percent increase from the previous year. Between 2013 and 2014, Canadian merchandise exports to Singapore increased by 34.3 percent to $1.3 billion and were led by machinery, precious stones and metals, aerospace products, and electrical and electronic machinery and equipment. Canadian merchandise imports from Singapore, however, decreased in 2014 by 11.0 percent to $1.2 billion. Top imports were machinery, miscellaneous chemical products and electrical and electronic machinery and equipment.

Singapore is Canada’s second-largest known foreign direct investment (FDI) destination in Southeast Asia. FDI stocks in Canada from Singapore were $695 million at the end of 2014, an 11.8 percent decrease over the year before, while the stock of Canada’s direct investment in Singapore was over $2.96 billion, a 4.3 percent increase from 2013. Service trade between Canada and Singapore totalled approximately $2.7 billion in 2014, with Canadian exports of services to Singapore reaching $921 million and Canadian imports of services from Singapore reaching nearly $1.8 billion.

Opportunities for Canadian companies will continue to be found in banking and finance, biomedical sciences, aerospace engineering, electronics, information and communications technology, food and beverage, health care, and media. It should be noted that there are also opportunities for Singaporean/Asian investment in Canadian (LNG) (liquefied natural gas) infrastructure in the coming years. As well, increasing opportunities for Canadian agriculture, food and beverage, and information and communication technologies (ICT) companies are anticipated. Substantial planned construction activity (commercial, residential and industrial) in Singapore continues, with a number of Canadian companies making some headway in an extremely competitive market. 

Key Elements for Exporters to Consider

The World Bank in 2014 again ranked Singapore as the easiest place to do business. Strong fundamentals such as a pro-business climate, excellent infrastructure, trade links with major economies, an efficient legal system, low taxes, a strong talent base, political stability and economic resilience continue to attract MNCs. In addition, the government, notably through Singapore’s Economic Development Board, offers numerous incentives to encourage foreign investment in the city-state.

As the cost of doing business in Singapore is relatively high, Canadian companies contemplating setting up offices in Singapore need to exercise caution. Real estate at prime locations comes at a premium, and leasing rates for office space are amongst the highest in Asia. The island republic is also highly dependent on foreign labour with semi-skilled and unskilled labour in acute shortage. Wage levels in the skilled and white-collar segment are rising, and the situation is complicated by competition from the multitude of MNCs and regional players in Singapore.

Singapore plays an influential role in Southeast Asia as the historical gateway to the region. Singapore has also recently focused considerable energy on Latin America and Africa where it sees an increasing role for its business community.

Major Asian trade fairs occur in Singapore in the food, aerospace and defence, ICT, cleantech (water), and infrastructure sectors creating opportunities for Canadian companies to meet potential clients with a view to the creation of business-to-business opportunities.

Sector-specific Opportunities and Challenges

Aerospace

Singapore is a global aviation hub and regional leader in aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), manufacturing, and research and development. The aerospace industry has grown an average of 12 percent per year since 1990. Singapore’s government has set aside 5-6 percent of its annual GDP or about $8-$10 billion for aerospace and defence expenditures; it is estimated that aerospace (both commercial and military) takes up more than 50 percent of this total budget. Singapore now manufactures small, unmanned aerial vehicles for global supply chains, and is eager to upgrade and grow its aerospace industry.

With over 100 aerospace companies based in Singapore providing MRO services and aerospace manufacturing, the opportunities for Canadian companies include supply of parts and components, avionics upgrades, supply of skills and expertise, education and training services, and MRO services. Local, regional airline and low-cost carrier operators also require new and used aircraft, and after-sales MRO services. As Singapore is building its fourth and fifth airport terminals and a new military airbase, there are also opportunities for Canadian companies to supply airport-related equipment, communication systems, security products, air traffic control, radar, closed-circuit television (CCTV), smart systems and services. Some 60 Canadian companies recently participated in the 2014 Singapore Airshow and are actively pursuing business opportunities in Singapore and the region.

Aerospace manufacturers have been doing lucrative business in Singapore and the region for decades and have established strong bases, relationships, and brand names and it may be challenging to compete with them. Similarly, on the MRO side, two very successful local companies dominate the market and have strong partnerships with original equipment manufacturers; in this case, strategic investments and alliances may be the most viable option for Canadian companies.

Agriculture and Processed Foods

Singapore is a wealthy and cosmopolitan city-state that has a virtually non-existent domestic agricultural industry, and residents with high disposable incomes and sophisticated consumer preferences. On the positive side, it has a relatively free market and status as a regional trendsetter; however, these positives are balanced by keen global competition to supply and dominate this market.

Singapore imports 90 percent of its food requirements from over 160 countriesFootnote 1, and qualifies as a potential market for a range of quality Canadian agri-food, seafood, and beverage products. In 2014, Canadian agri-food and seafood exports to Singapore reached $131.9 million, more than double the level of five years ago. Canada commands a dominant supply position in a variety of niche products in Singapore including soybeans, canola oil, maple syrup, Icewine, french fries, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic lobster.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the location for most of the world’s global grain and commodity traders, and they use Singapore's strong regional linkages as a gateway to penetrate into Southeast Asia and beyond. As a major supplier of grains, oilseeds, and pulses to the Asia-Pacific region, Canada has strong linkages with these companies.

Challenges in this market for Canadians include a strict and conservative regulatory environment for food imports, logistical problems created by the distance to market, and the costs associated with the need to consolidate shipments.

Canadian beef exporters currently have market access to Singapore for boneless beef from animals less than 30 months of age. In 2014, Canadian beef exports to Singapore were valued at nearly $600,000.

Defence and Security

The Republic of Singapore has always made national defence and security a top priority. The city-state has consistently invested 4-5 percent of its GDP in defence spending and has built up a defence force with assets and technological skills. In 2014, this budget figure was approximately $11.19 billion. On the security side, approximately $3.73 billion was spent in 2014 on the Ministry of Home Affairs security services including the police, coast guard and the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority. Singapore has increased its defence and security expenditures as have its regional neighbours.

The government’s yearly commitment to defence and security spending offers many opportunities for Canadian industry. Singapore’s future procurement of high tech and reliable defence and security products, equipment, systems and services is expected to include: transport and landing naval crafts for the Leopard main battle tanks, replacement of the Victory Class missile corvettes, replacement of Hercules C-130 and aircraft tankers, Fokker maritime patrol aircraft, new helicopters to replace the Super Pumas and Cougars, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, bigger unmanned aerial vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles (to replace V200 vehicles), submarines, training simulators, robots, building a new air base (requiring military airport-related equipment), communication systems, surveillance equipment, intelligence CCTV, X-ray equipment, cyber security and cyber warfare capabilities, equipment and services, data protection, and system network protection.

The key challenge facing Canadian defence and security companies is well-established competition from the United States, Israel, United Kingdom, EU and Australia. These competitors have often been aided by bilateral free trade agreements and/or defence, security and procurement arrangements with Singapore.

A number of Canadian defence industry companies are active in the Singaporean market, including General Dynamics Canada, Bombardier Aerospace, CAE, L-3 Wescam, Magellan Aerospace, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Inuktun, Micropilo, Wade Antenna, Davis Engineering, NovAtel, Smiths Detection, Newcon Optik, C4I Consulting, Soucy, OSI Maritime Systems, I Omniscient, Fortem and others. The largely state-owned Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering Group of companies has strong links to Singapore’s armed forces, and an industrial partnership with ST is virtually a prerequisite for foreign companies looking to do business in Singapore.

Education

A world-class education system exists in Singapore and provides opportunities for research and development collaboration and educational partnerships between Canadian and Singapore educational institutions. It also allows for student recruitment for Canadian institutions. Singapore, a regional hub, is recognized internationally for its quality education, and attracts top talent from across Asia and the world to study and do research. The government has invested heavily in specialized research parks such as Biopolis and Fusionopolis to create a vibrant research environment. Singaporean students are excellent candidates for overseas study, having both academic and financial capabilities. Canada’s market share to attract students remains low compared to the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, all of which have had a long and sustained presence in Singapore.

Financial Services

The number of foreign financial institutions, as well as offshore and non-banking financial institutions, has increased significantly and the city-state is now home to over 600 financial institutions. Singapore’s success as a financial centre can be attributed in part to its well-developed infrastructure system, including its effective communications network, stable government and established legal framework. In addition, success can be attributed to its well-respected and proactive financial regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

By being based in Singapore, Canadian companies can also take advantage of regional opportunities, which exist specifically in wealth management, corporate banking, information and communication technologies (ICT) related to financial services, and insurance services. The large number of financial service companies in a highly developed market means that newcomers to Singapore must provide best-in-brand solutions to be competitive. 

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)

ICT is a key contributor to Singapore's economic development. Industries such as education, health care, manufacturing, tourism, and finance are all harnessing ICT to grow their businesses. An important opportunity in the ICT space is Singapore’s commitment to being a ‘Smart Nation’, which includes a series of initiatives to improve the lives of citizens through better public service delivery and greater day-to-day convenience. These projects cover a wide variety of applications – from building a resilient core infrastructure that supplies timely information to improving the availability of high-speed connectivity across the nation.

Many MNCs have made Singapore a key node in their global network, while others have set up global IT offices to drive their worldwide business operations. Singapore's continued investment in developing the country's ICT infrastructure has resulted in an array of business opportunities for Canadian companies. Despite the island's small size and stiff competition from other foreign vendors, Singapore remains an important ICT market for Canadian companies looking to expand their footprint in the Asia-Pacific region.

Oil and Gas

Asia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports accounted for 76 percent of the global LNG trade in 2013, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2014 Medium-Term Gas Market Report. Singapore is one of the biggest oil trading hubs in the world, and natural gas companies have also begun to set up trading desks in Singapore.

Five years ago, there were only a handful of LNG traders in Singapore; today there are over 20 different trading houses. Singapore is attempting to leverage its geographical and intellectual position in an effort to become Asia's premier LNG trading hub. This also means that Singapore is following with interest developments in Canada related to the LNG space.

Although Singapore is not an oil and gas producer, many firms are based there to capitalize on its strategic location as a gateway to major oil and gas producers in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Such firms in Singapore, however, are also experiencing intense competition and a shortage of qualified and/or experienced workers. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, Singapore is the top global player in oil and gas drilling units and offshore support vessels and has 70 percent of the world markets in jack-up rigsFootnote 2. Prospects in Singapore for Canadian partnerships and collaboration, including in research and development, could increase alongside developments in Arctic shipping, oil drilling, and infrastructure development.

LNG is a key fuel used to generate more than 90 percent of Singapore’s electricity. All of Singapore’s gas supplies have historically come via pipeline from Malaysia and Indonesia, but the new Singapore LNG terminal will be able to handle imports from all over the world. This new terminal can handle six million tonnes per annum and plans are in place for a fourth tank, which will raise the capacity to at least nine million tonnes per year by 2017. The terminal also has the ability to reload LNG to other vessels to be shipped elsewhere in the region.

Professional services

As a sophisticated business centre, Singapore is also a prime service trading partner for Canada. In 2014, the two countries’ service trade totalled approximately $2.7 billion. Canadian exports of services to Singapore were $921 million in 2014, up 4.7 percent from the previous year, while Canadian imports of services from Singapore advanced 4.6 percent to nearly $1.8 billion in 2014. A significant number of global professional service firms have established themselves in Singapore to support the legal, administrative, management and human resource needs of the many MNCs that are located there. Many companies use Singapore as a market entry point for Southeast Asia or Asia more broadly.

There are opportunities for professional service companies and management consultants to assist companies with strategy and business development. With its strong rule of law and regulatory systems, Singapore is a well-established regional hub for legal services. Singapore is also increasingly becoming a centre for international commercial settlements. The number of international cases administered by arbitral institutions has more than doubled over the past five years. In August 2008, the Singapore Government announced the liberalization of the legal services sector. Foreign law practices may receive a license to practice Singapore law in permitted areas through Singapore-qualified solicitors employed by such firms.

Sustainable Technologies

As a cleantech hub for Asia, Singapore remains committed to research and development, testbedding, and commercialization of clean technology solutions, particularly in the areas of energy security and water. Singapore is focusing heavily on the potential for solar photovoltaic power and has identified smart grid technology as having an important role to play. Other sub-sectors of significant interest to Singapore are green building, fuel cell and electro voltaic (EV), and waste management. To promote commercialization to Singapore and the region, the Singapore Economic Development Board provides tax and relocation incentives.

The Clean Tech One park is a 'cleantech incubator' for export commercialization for international companies and is keen to partner with Canada. Given the strong intellectual property protection and favourable production and logistic conditions, Singapore can be a launch pad into China, India, Indonesia, and the rest of the Southeast Asia region. Canada has a strong reputation in Singapore as a 'green industry leader’; its capabilities in fuel cell and EV, second-generation biofuels, solar apps, waste management, and nuclear power and regulation are all of interest to Singaporean government and business partners.

Major Negotiations and Agreements

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The TPP Agreement is the most comprehensive and ambitious regional trade agreement in the Asia Pacific and will deepen Canada’s trade ties in this dynamic and fast growing region. The TPP currently comprises 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam), representing a combined market of nearly 800 million people and a GDP of $28.5 trillion.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA)

The revised GPA came into force on April 6, 2014. The agreement builds upon the original GPA of 1994 by further opening up procurement market access opportunities. Canadian businesses will benefit from the revised GPA through greater access to the government procurement markets of other GPA parties for a range of goods and services.

Double Taxation Convention

A protocol amending the Canada-Singapore Double Taxation Convention was signed in Singapore on November 29, 2011 and entered into force on August 31, 2012. The protocol updates and strengthens the convention's provisions for the exchange of tax information in order to combat international tax evasion.

Canada-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Negotiations for a Canada-Singapore FTA are currently on hold. The launch of bilateral FTA negotiations with Singapore was announced in October 2001, with eight rounds of negotiations being held between January 2002 and August 2007. The TPP negotiations (see above) provide an opportunity for Canada and Singapore to strengthen their commercial relationship.

Air Transport Agreement (ATA)

The ATA between Canada and Singapore was concluded in 2007 and has been applied on an administrative basis. ATAs serve to facilitate passenger and all-cargo traffic with benefits for trade, investment, tourism, and people-to-people links.

WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA)

Singapore is an original signatory to the WTO ITA concluded at the 1996 WTO Ministerial Conference. Under the ITA, Singapore provides duty-free access for all products covered by the ITA, including telecommunication products and their parts, computing products and their parts, semiconductors, and integrated circuits. Singapore is taking part in ongoing negotiations to expand the coverage of products and membership in the ITA.

Selected Trade Initiatives – Seize the Opportunity!

  • ICT
    • CommunicAsia/ BroadcastAsia, Singapore, annual in June
  • Aerospace
    • Singapore Airshow, biannual, Feb 2016
    • MRO Asia-Pacific – Singapore, annual, Nov 2015
  • Sustainable Technologies
    • Singapore International Water Week, biannual, July 2016
  • Agriculture and Processed Foods
    • Canada Food Fair promotion at all 49 Cold Storage stores throughout Singapore, annual
    • Food and Hotel Asia, biannual, April 2016

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Where not otherwise indicated, the information is provided by the High Commission of Canada to Singapore. This document is not intended to provide specific advice and should not be relied on as such. It is intended as an overview only. No action or decision should be taken without detailed independent research and professional advice concerning the specific subject matter of such action or decision. While Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) has made reasonable efforts to ensure that the information contained in this document is accurate, DFATD does not represent or warrant the accurateness, timeliness or completeness of the information contained herein. This document or any part of it may become obsolete at any time. It is the user’s responsibility to verify any information contained herein before relying on such information. DFATD is not liable in any manner whatsoever for any loss or damage caused by or resulting from any inaccuracies, errors or omissions in the information contained in this document. This document is not intended to and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice. For investment, legal or tax advice, please consult a qualified professional.