Singapore - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers

Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.

Last published date: 2020-09-16

Singapore maintains one of the most liberal trading regimes in the world, but U.S. companies face several trade barriers.  It maintains a tiered motorcycle operator licensing system based on engine displacement, which, along with a road tax based on engine size, adversely affects U.S. exports of large motorcycles.  In 2017, Singapore further discouraged motorcycle imports by introducing a tiered system of additional registration fees, which serve as a de facto additional tax on motorcycles and significantly increases their price.  Compared to the previous flat rate of 15 percent, motorcycle owners must now pay a rate of 50 percent on excess value above approximately $3,800 and a rate of 100 percent on excess value above approximately $7,600. 

Singapore also restricts the import and sale of non-medicinal chewing gum.  For social and/or environmental reasons, it levies high excise taxes on distilled spirits and wine, tobacco products, and motor vehicles.

Services barriers include sectors such as pay TV, audiovisual and media services, licensing of online news websites, legal services, banking, and cloud computing services for financial institutions.  Details can be found in the USTR Report on Foreign Trade Barriers that is available online.

As of April 1, 2019, the Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) restructured to form the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the Singapore Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).  SFA is under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and oversees all food-related matters including food safety and security.  AVS is under the National Parks Board (NParks) and oversees all non-food related animal, plant, and wildlife management matters.  

Although SFA largely follows internationally accepted, science-based regulatory standards, including OIE and Codex guidelines, the agency continues to implement a few stringent import protocols that negatively impact trade with the United States.

SFA currently only allows nine of the 41 antimicrobial washes (i.e. pathogen reduction treatments or PRTs) used in the United States.  This restriction is particularly trade inhibiting as one of the most widely used and internationally accepted PRTs in the U.S. meat producing industry (hypobromous acid) is still not approved in Singapore.  FAS Singapore and industry are working closely with SFA on the approval of additional PRTs in Singapore.  

As for U.S. pork and pork products, SFA requires U.S. fresh and chilled pork products to be tested for trichinae even though it is extremely rare to find it in U.S. commercial swine due to stringent U.S. biosecurity protocols.  The trichinae testing is both expensive and time consuming, and thus creates a barrier to trade.  SFA also imposes excessively strict shelf life requirements on chilled meat/poultry products that limit the time after slaughter/manufacture a product can enter Singapore.

Additionally, meat imports are frequently visually inspected and subjected to time consuming testing for a range of food hazards such as chemical contaminants (e.g. pesticide residues and drug residues such as antibiotics), and microbial contaminants (e.g. bacteria such as E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria) despite a broad range of highly transparent contaminant safeguards already being in place in the United States prior to export.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of business in Singapore, except for national security reasons and areas such as air transportation, public utilities, newspaper publishing, and shipping.  Singapore is an open economy and encourages trade and investment into the country.