Finding suppliers, distributors, and future customers can be overwhelming when you’re on the other side of the world. Operating since 1954, the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore has built private and public sector connections that span numerous industries, working hard to remain relevant and plugged into what Singapore is looking for.
In March 2021, the Government in the UK announced the Indo-Pacific Tilt as part of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. During the same year, the UK-EU Trade & Corporation Agreement came into force, as did the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (UKSFTA). An MOU was signed between the UK and Singapore on Financial Services, the UK became an ASEAN Dialogue Partner and moved further along the road towards joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP). The UK-Singapore Digital Economic Agreement (UKSDEA) was signed earlier this year, which the Chamber was present for. To help businesses understand what these agreements mean in practice, the British Chamber maintains a Future of Trade Information Hub where business leaders can learn more about each deal and signposting to usual resources.
With such focus and attention on enabling UK trade in the region, there has never been a better time for British companies to consider exporting. Total trade in goods and services between the UK and the ASEAN Member States was £36.2 billion in the four quarters to Q3 2021 (source: gov.uk).
Singapore is home to an estimated 5,000 British businesses and 45,000 British nationals. The UK exported £4.6 billion worth of goods and services to Singapore in 2020 (ONS, 2021). As an island-state with low unemployment, fluent English language, a low tax environment, high literacy and a population of over 5 million people, Singapore is currently the 5th most competitive country in the world, according to experts at the World Competitiveness Center and 2nd in INSEAD’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index. Setting up a business in Singapore is simple by design, with the support of various inter-connected Government agencies and stat boards ready to provide advice and sector support. The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) even provide a helpful calculator tool to estimate the cost of setting up a business.
What is Singapore looking for?
As Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to Asia Pacific, Natalie Black CBE, told our members in her end of year message, almost 60% of the world’s high-income earners are set to be in Asia by 2030. That means more consumers who want to buy goods and services from the UK, whether technology, financial services, or high-quality manufactured goods.
To ensure that Singapore is considered a world leader, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) created Industrial Transformation Maps (ITMs) to evaluate the needs of industry continually. These ITMs are focused on six areas and are currently under review.
- Manufacturing, including precision engineering, energy and chemicals, marine and offshore, aerospace and electronics
- Built Environment, including construction, real estate, security and environmental services
- Trade and Connectivity, including air transport, land transport, logistics, sea transport and wholesale trade
- Essential Domestic Services, including healthcare and education
- Modern Services, including professional services, financial services, ICT and media
- Lifestyle, including food manufacturing, food services, hotel and retail
According to the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), with the issuance of digital banking licenses and a resilient property market, the finance industry has many exciting developments in Singapore. According to Long Finance, the country is ranked 5th in the top financial centres in the world. Its highly regulated but fair and open economy attracts many of the world’s largest financial institutions who look to base their regional headquarters here. Of particular interest are FinTech solutions and green and sustainable finance.
Singapore is an early adopter of next-generation technologies like AI, machine learning, IoT, Smart Cities, and 5G. Data science, software, IT, cloud computing, AI and cyber security are all in the spotlight as sectors of growth, and the Government is investing in skills training and infrastructure development to position Singapore as a leader in tech. As an illustration of the importance placed on the industry, in September 2021 the Singapore Government unveiled a package of initiatives to attract high-growth, high-tech local and regional companies to list on the Singapore Exchange (SGX).
MDIS notes that Singapore is renowned for its role as a healthcare hub for the region. Its hospitals, nursing departments, and facilities cater to patients from Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific, the United States, and Europe. With an extended network of community hospitals and polyclinics in Singapore, the public health sectors and the overall industry is expected to expand. Before the focus shifted to the pandemic, gerontology and eldercare were the fastest growing industries in healthcare, with a quarter of the population, anticipated to be over 65 by 2030. Mental health specialists and services are in focus following the pandemic, with the need to consider and protect employees and the wider population a continuing message from Government.
Despite its limited size, Singapore continually upgrades its infrastructure and transport systems, with opportunities for British businesses in master planning, consulting, engineering, transport and delivery.
How the British Chamber of Commerce helps new market entrants in the UK
As part of the British Chambers of Commerce Global Network, our office is connected to all the local British Chamber offices in the UK, those in key markets around the globe, and works closely with those in Southeast Asia and ASEAN. For more information on the Britain in Southeast Asia network (BiSEA), which our office Co-Chairs, read this resource on our website, which features market profiles and contact information. Office bearers from the UK and other markets connect their members with us for in-market advice and support throughout the year.
Beyond the British Chamber network, we work closely with the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT), which is responsible for encouraging and supporting UK trade worldwide. Until recently, DIT outsourced support for British SMEs looking to export to the network of British Chambers. Through this partnership, our office has generated SG$64.7bn value in exports for the UK economy since the measurement of exports began in 2017. We have supported over 2,000 SMEs with market advice and services since the Overseas Business Network Initiative (OBNI) began in 2014.
The British Chamber of Commerce Singapore has experience in creating in-market trade mission programmes, both in-person and virtual, hosting product launches, providing promotional services of product/services to our member network in-market, and the sourcing and introductions of connections between clients and distributers, suppliers and potential customers. We have extensive experience in the financial services, food and beverage, education, healthcare, consumer goods and maritime sectors. In 2022 we will move into a new phase of servicing market entrants, providing recommendations and connections through our extensive member network to support businesses, with ad-hoc project work on request.
When breakfast foods firm FUEL10K was reviewing options in the market, they participated in a market visit organised by the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore. In their words:
“Their organisation during our 3-day market visit was informed, energetic and second to none. Follow on support and guidance once we returned to the UK was invaluable. From that single trip, we now have significant trading relationships and a great base to grow our brand throughout Singapore and beyond.”
London-based ready-brewed iced milk tea firm Tuk Tuk Chai sealed a deal during their trade mission to Singapore:
“The level of support we received from the Chamber was absolutely great and invaluable, enabling us to meet key contacts of interest during our carefully organised and well-planned retail tour, which resulted in us signing up a deal whilst still on the Mission! The whole Mission was very professionally managed, engaging and insightful. They also arranged a networking reception which was a great occasion to showcase our products to potential buyers and engage with them.”
Naylor Farms used our services to introduce their food products to the market:
“The Chamber offered invaluable assistance to organise our showcase presentations. Hosting over 150 guests at Eden Hall in Singapore enabled the company to explore the market, diving into the local culture and building relationships with the key players in the food industry.”
When Head of College for Dulwich College (Singapore) Nick Magnus arrived ten years ago, the Chamber played a crucial role in quickly establishing the brand:
“As a new start-up project, the British Chamber of Commerce were absolutely invaluable to us. Not only were they a font of knowledge for how to do business in Singapore but they also offered such connectivity to the diverse Chamber community. It really helped to herald our arrival and connect us with so many people who might be interested in what Dulwich had to offer.”
In subsequent years the College has become a thriving leader in the international school market and a fully engaged and active member of the Chamber, for which the entire staff are enabled to experience the benefits.
To support British businesses interested in expansion we host sector-specific webinars, content and interviews on our platforms. To view the content and make an enquiry, visit our specialist platform at britcham.org.sg/market-entry-support and start your journey.