Country Listing

Singapore Table of Contents


Trading Partners

Along with the changes in the composition of trade that had taken place since independence, there also were changes in direction. The preeminence of Britain as supplier of manufactures declined after independence, and by the early 1970s the United States and Japan had become Singapore's two leading sources of industrial products. Malaysia and Indonesia remained the principal sources of such primary imports as crude rubber, vegetable oils, and spices and an important destination for manufactured exports, including both the products of Singapore and of the entrepôt trade.

Singapore did not report trade with Indonesia. The omission dated from the period of the Indonesian Confrontation in the mid1960s and continued, according to some observers, because Singapore was afraid that if the Indonesian government knew the volume of the trade, it might try to curtail it. Estimates were difficult because a substantial part of the trade was viewed by Indonesia as smuggling and was, therefore, unlisted, although in Singapore's open export market it was legal. Nevertheless, trade with Indonesia could be presumed, based partly on Indonesian trade figures, to have assumed a gradually larger role starting in the mid-1970s.

As Singapore became more export oriented, its trading patterns became increasingly complex and interdependent. By the late 1980s, Singapore's trade links were strongest with the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD--see Glossary), especially the United States, Japan, and the countries of the European Economic Community ( EEC--see Glossary) or of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN--see Glossary; see table 11, Appendix). Singapore's drive to industrialization had drawn it increasingly towards the OECD countries for foreign investment, technology, and markets. To a large extent, this shift had meant decreasing reliance on its ASEAN neighbors, particularly for markets and supplies (see table 12, Appendix). The other Asian NIEs, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, were sometimes viewed as Singapore's competitors. On the other hand, Singapore engaged in considerable and growing trade with them, particularly with Taiwan, and all three were a source of skilled labor.

Data as of December 1989