Hong Kong has long served as the leading entry point for doing business in China. Today, however, Singapore is quickly becoming China's new gateway. With its predominantly ethnic Chinese population and close political ties to Beijing, Singapore is hoping to act as a conduit for trade between China and other countries. It's also the easiest Asian country in which to do business, the market most similar to the U.S., and a major distribution center. And its high standard of living and comfortable, safe environment, along with transport facilities that put nearly half of the world's population within seven hours' travel, make Singapore a key regional hub.
If that's not enough to get you thinking about doing business there, maybe this will: The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, or USSFTA, that went into effect in 2004 is sweeping away trade barriers. During the first three years of the USSFTA, U.S. exports to Singapore increased by nearly 50 percent. In 2007, Singapore was the 10th largest export market ($13.1 billion) and the 13th largest trading partner to the U.S.
According to the World Bank Group's Ease of Doing Business Index, Singapore ranked No. 1 out of 178 countries and was No. 1 in trading across borders. The 2007 A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index (measuring financial attractiveness, people and skills availability, and business environment) places Singapore at No. 11. Not too shabby for a country with only about 4.5 million people and a total land area of less than 265 square miles.
Singaporeans speak English, and the country itself is highly developed. As a result, exporters can successfully market their products without much product adaptation. Many kinds of products are well-suited to the Singaporean marketplace; four in particular were primary U.S. exports in 2006: machinery, electronics, aircraft and aircraft parts, and optical and medical instruments. Other sectors with good prospects include laboratory and scientific instruments, telecommunications equipment, oil and gas equipment and pollution-control equipment.
If you want a strategically vibrant and global location, Singapore is the place. For more information on how to get started, visit U.S. Commercial Service Singapore, at buyusa.gov/singapore/en.
—By Laurel Delaney, who runs GlobeTrade.com and Laurel Delaney.com, Chicago-based firms that specialize in international entrepreneurship. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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