Singapore - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges

Learn about barriers to market entry and local requirements, i.e., things to be aware of when entering the market for this country.

Last published date: 2021-08-16

Singapore is a free port as more than 99% of all imports enter Singapore duty-free.  For social and/or environmental reasons, it levies high excise taxes on distilled spirits and wine, tobacco products, motor vehicles, and gasoline.  Competition with global suppliers is a key challenge for American companies operating in Singapore.  As the nation continues to restructure its economy, U.S. companies doing business in the city-state can expect increased operating costs and continued tightening availability of foreign labor resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

U.S. companies face technical import barriers for beef, pork and poultry products, and labeling barriers for pre-packaged, non-alcoholic beverages.  Services barriers include restrictions on the use of satellite dishes, direct-to-home satellite TV services, paid television subscriptions, legal, banking, and healthcare services.  Despite Singapore’s overall strong record on intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement, U.S. stakeholders continue to raise concerns regarding weak enforcement against infringing goods transshipped through Singapore and the use of unauthorized streaming services and third-party illicit streaming devices to access pirated content.  Details on these trade barriers can be found in the USTR National Trade Estimate Report.

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented new challenges in Singapore along with issues such as an aging workforce, maturing economy, growing influence of social media, and increasing competition from other trade agreements and ASEAN partners.  Singapore relies heavily on foreign workers who make up nearly one third of the workforce. Strict government restrictions have adversely affected businesses especially the construction industry and those heavily dependent on foreign labor.