Prior to the 1960s, Singapore was essentially a free port, with import duties levied only on alcoholic beverages, tobacco and tobacco products, petroleum products, and certain soaps. In 1959, however, a law was passed empowering the government to levy import duties on other products to protect local industries. In the 1960s, many new tariffs were established with the primary aim of helping to support development of local manufacturing firms. In the early 1970s, many items were withdrawn from the tariff list, and by 1982 there were only 176 items on the list, compared with 349 in 1972. In 1985, excise duties on sugar and sugar substitutes and import and excise duties on fuel oil were lifted. By 1993, there were almost no import tariffs except for duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, petroleum products, and a few other items. Duties ranged from 5–45%. There are no export duties. As of 2002, the average tariff in Singapore was below 1%, as more than 99% of goods entered duty-free. In 2000, duties were levied on tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, gasoline, automobiles (31%), and motorcycles (12%).
Singapore has six free trade zones, five for seaborne cargo (in the five gateways of the port) and one for air cargo. The GST (goods and service tax) of 3%, which is levied on all imports, is not levied on goods stored in the free trade zones.