Since the 1960s, Singapore has adopted a policy of export-oriented industrialization, promoting the export of goods and services in the international markets. It has few barriers against the import of goods and services, although the government's well-known interventionist policy in the regulation and ownership of many Singapore companies has been widely criticized. Singapore more than doubled its exports, from US$52.752 billion in 1990 to US$118.268 billion, in 1995. Exports dipped after 1997, but recovered to reach US$137 billion in 2000. The United States is Singapore's single largest trading partner, accounting for 19 percent of all exports in 1999, primarily from the sale of manufactured electronics and computer peripherals. A large part of these exports originates from U.S.-owned companies, which are traditionally the largest investors in the Singapore economy. Neighboring Malaysia is the second largest export market, accounting for 17 percent of total exports. Hong Kong and Japan are also important export destinations, accounting for 8 percent and 7 percent of exports respectively. Other important partners include Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, China, South Korea, and Germany.
The United States and Japan are the largest suppliers of imports to Singapore, with both countries supplying 17 percent of imports. Malaysia remained one of the traditional sources of imports, accounting for 16 percent
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Singapore|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
of the total. Major imports from Malaysia include consumer goods like foodstuffs and raw materials. China (5 percent), Thailand (5 percent), Taiwan (4.0 percent), Saudi Arabia (3 percent), and Germany (3 percent) are other major sources of imports. In 2000, the value of imports totaled US$127 billion.
Singapore's government considers the development of free trade as an important factor for the country's future economic growth. Singapore strongly supported free trade negotiations between the members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC), which tried to remove trade barriers between member countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and others. Singapore also strongly supported the creation of a regional free trade zone for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be known as the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA). In 2001, Singapore announced its intention to discuss bilateral free-trade arrangements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States.
Singapore's international trade rose during the last 3 decades of the 20th century, when the country managed its trade balance to achieve a trade surplus of US$10 billion by 2000. Singapore demonstrated its immunity to the sharp oil price rises in 2000 and 2001; however, it faces increasing competition from neighboring countries and has become vulnerable to changes in global market demands for electronic products. Nevertheless, political and economic uncertainty in neighboring Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand have strengthened Singapore's position, confirming its image as one of the most stable and business-friendly countries in the region.