UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement for Imports Explained

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Singapore stands out as a crucial gateway for UK businesses looking to access the dynamic markets of Southeast Asia. Its strategic location offers lucrative opportunities for a range of UK products, from traditional foods to advanced technologies. With many British companies already thriving in Singapore, it serves as a springboard into the region.

Despite the potential, entering the Singaporean market poses unique logistical challenges. Mastering shipping logistics, understanding customs regulations, and navigating trade agreements are vital for a successful entry. This guide simplifies the shipping process from the UK to Singapore, providing key insights for a smooth transition into this market.

The UK’s top exports to Singapore

But first, to fully leverage the opportunities in Singapore, it's essential to grasp the dynamics of the UK-Singapore trade relationship.

As per the Department for Business & Trade, Singapore ranks as the UK's 15th largest export market, with UK exports to Singapore amounting to £14.8 billion for the four quarters ending Q3 2023, representing 1.7% of total UK exports during this period. 

Key UK exports to Singapore, according to the Department for Business and Trade, encompass:

  1. Mechanical power generators
  2. General industrial machinery
  3. Medicinal and pharmaceutical products
  4. Miscellaneous metal manufactures
  5. Cars

These exports underscore the diverse and robust trade relations between the UK and Singapore, providing a promising avenue for UK businesses to expand in the Asian market. Additionally, it presents an opportunity for Singaporean businesses to market and sell imported British products.

Does the UK have a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore?

Businesses eyeing Singapore as a vital market can leverage the benefits provided by the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTAs).

In this case, the two focal agreements are: the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (UKSFTA) and the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which has now ceased to apply to UK-Singapore trade.

Through these FTAs, trading becomes more straightforward with expedited customs clearance, reduced paperwork, and enhanced transparency in customs regulations. These agreements also ensure swift and efficient goods release, facilitating smoother international trade.

Understanding UKSFTA and its benefits

The UKSFTA marks a pivotal chapter in the trade relations between Singapore and the UK. This agreement embodies a continuation of the beneficial trade terms previously enjoyed under the aforementioned EUSFTA, aiming to propel British exports into Singapore while capitalising on Singapore's strategic role in enhancing the UK's connectivity with ASEAN.

Among its myriad benefits, the UKSFTA introduces:

  • Liberal and flexible Rules of Origin (ROO): Offers lenient rules of origin for major exports between the two nations, covering a wide array of sectors such as automotive, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and textiles. This flexibility encourages a seamless flow of trade, enhancing the competitiveness of products in each other's markets.
  • Duty-free access maintained: In alignment with the EUSFTA's tariff reduction schedule, the UKSFTA guarantees that 84% of tariff lines for Singaporean exports to the UK remain duty-free. By November 2024, almost all remaining tariffs will be eliminated, ensuring continued duty-free access for UK products entering Singapore.
  • Facilitate trade through Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) recognition: Mutual recognition of AEO schemes simplifies documentary and cargo clearance, benefiting AEO-certified companies with expedited shipment processes.

Moreover, the UKSFTA incorporates provisions that extend beyond traditional trade agreement norms:

  • EU & ASEAN Cumulation: It allows for the inclusion of EU-27 materials and parts in exports to each market, and for selected products, Singaporean companies can incorporate materials from ASEAN Member States. This facilitates the eligibility of such products for preferential tariff privileges, simplifying their access to favourable trade terms.
  • The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA): Modernises aspects of the UKSFTA by binding disciplines on critical elements like data flows and explores cooperative areas, including Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, and Cyber Security. This dynamic framework, enriched with Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and side letters, opens new avenues for bilateral cooperation on emerging digital economy challenges.

Singapore customs regulations to take into account

When shipping goods to Singapore from the UK, it's vital to comprehend and comply with customs protocols to ensure smooth entry into the market. 

Here's a handy checklist for businesses looking to ship internationally to Singapore:

Apply for ordinary or preferential Certificate of Origin (CO)

Securing an Ordinary Certificate of Origin (OCO) or Preferential Certificate of Origin (PCO) is vital for businesses leveraging the UKSFTA to ensure smooth customs clearance and enjoy tariff benefits. 

Follow this streamlined guide to simplify the process:

  1. Manufacturer's registration: Register your manufacturing premises or new product line. Essential documentation, such as a full ingredients list and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), must accompany your application. Registrations are valid for two years, with renewal notifications sent a month before expiration.
  2. Manufacturing cost statement submission: Post-registration, submit a manufacturing cost statement to verify that your goods meet the origin criteria under UKSFTA. 
  3. Application for CO via TradeNet: Apply for your CO along with the export permit under UKSFTA through TradeNet. 
  4. CO collection: The CO must be collected within one month from the approval date. If necessary, an exporter may designate someone to collect it, provided they present the required Letter of Authorisation.

Understand controlled and prohibited goods

  • Verify the import status of your goods, ensuring they are not prohibited, like scanning receivers, or require special authorisation for import into Singapore.

Obtain a customs import permit

  • Register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) or the Unique Entity Number (UEN) issuance agency to get a UEN.
  • Activate a Customs Account using your UEN for importing activities and appoint a Declaring Agent for customs permit applications or apply for permits directly.
  • To apply directly, register as a Declaring Agent and secure a TradeNet user ID.
  • Submit all customs permit applications through TradeNet, either via an approved vendor's software or the Government Front-End Application.

Pay for Duties and GST

  • Duties and GST on imports must be paid by the importer. Payment options include using your own Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG) with Singapore Customs or through a Declaring Agent.

Have the relevant documents for clearance of goods

  • Verify the validity of the customs permit for all imports.
  • Declare container and shipper seal numbers for containerised cargo permits.
  • Sea imports don't require presenting permits and documents at entry points.
  • For air or land imports, present the customs permit and documents (invoice, packing list, Air Waybill/consignment note) for verification.
  • Conventional cargo and hand-carried goods must show permits and supporting documents at entry points.

Leveraging DHL Express for UK to Singapore shipments

In navigating the complexities of international trade, especially under the UKSFTA, businesses can find an ally in DHL Express

With deep knowledge of the trade agreement's nuances and a global logistics network, DHL Express stands ready to streamline your shipping process from the UK to Singapore. From understanding preferential origin criteria to ensuring your shipments enjoy the tax benefits under UKSFTA, partnering with DHL Express brings a plethora of advantages to the table.

Why partner with DHL Express?

  • Expertise in international shipping: DHL Express brings decades of logistics experience, ensuring your shipments from the UK to Singapore are handled with care and professionalism. As an experienced courier, our familiarity with UKSFTA enables us to guide you through setting up Preferential Origin, ensuring your business maximises its benefits.
  • Global logistics leader: With a vast network that spans across continents, DHL Express provides unparalleled access to global markets. This expansive reach allows Singaporean businesses to explore new product lines from the UK and beyond, confidently expanding their offerings.
  • Efficient, reliable and cheap shipping solutions: Our commitment to efficiency and speed of deliveries ensures your shipments from the UK reach Singapore promptly, helping you meet your business timelines and customer expectations.
  • Tailored shipping services: Our shipping solutions are customised to fit your specific needs, whether you're importing cutting-edge technology, speciality food items, or any other products from the UK.

Ready to take your business to new heights? Create a business account with DHL Express today and unlock a world of opportunities for your imports from the UK.