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How to Set Up a Trading Company in Singapore?

12 Dec

How to Set Up a Trading Company in Singapore?

Singapore is an effective and efficient ‘port of call’ for many traders around the world, especially those dealing in the western and eastern time zones. According to World Trade Organization’s latest statistics, Singapore is the 14th largest exporter in the world. If you plan to register a company in Singapore for the import/export business, an overview of the various aspects of trading is provided below.

With 3000 logistics and supply chain management companies available in Singapore, trade has become an integral part of the country’s booming economy. Singapore also provides shippers with a choice of 200 shipping lines that has connections to over 600 ports in more than 120 countries. With market dominance over this industry of import/export trade, Singapore has well-defined procedures in place. Please read on to find out more about setting up a trading company in Singapore.

How to start a trading company in Singapore?

Step 1: Incorporate a trading company

In order to start a trading business in Singapore, a Singapore company is required to be incorporated. The procedure of company incorporation is fully computerized through the Bizfile website. Therefore, the time needed to process each incorporation is short, about 1-2 days under normal circumstances.

Step 2: Register with Singapore Customs

Both exporters and importers have to activate their account with Singapore Customs before being granted permission to import/export goods into and out of Singapore. 1-2 working days will be needed after submission of the application before activation of account is processed. If successful, a Customs approval letter will be issued and it will be valid for as long as the company exists.

Step 3: Apply for licences and permits

For import /export of all goods

Including all non-controlled and controlled items, import of all goods into Singapore require an IN Permit through TradeNet®. On the other hand, export of all goods out of Singapore require you to obtain an OUT Permit through TradeNet®.

IN Permit and OUT Permit has to be obtained:

  • before exporting goods if they are transported via rail or road, or are controlled goods.
  • within 3 days of export if your goods are transported by sea or air, or non-controlled goods.
  • before exporting goods that are imported under the Temporary Import Scheme previously.
  • before exporting goods under the Temporary Export Scheme.

However, certain special scenarios may be imported/exported without a permit. One such example includes importing/exporting of uncontrolled items that does not exceed S$400/- in total value on the CIF (Costs, Insurance and Freight) value.

For import/export of controlled goods

Controlled goods are the import/export of some goods that are subject to the control of Controlling Agencies. To import/export controlled goods, a permit is required, in addition to the IN and OUT Permit. Permit applications can be submitted to relevant Controlling Agencies through TradeNet® system or via your freight forwarder, cargo agent for processing and approval. Some examples of controlled goods include tobacco products, petrochemicals, drugs, animals and food products.

For import of high-technology items

Some high-technology items are subject to export control and the importer from Singapore may have to provide an Import Certificate and Delivery Verification (ICDV). ICDV can be applied by importers at Singapore Customs. Items covered in an ICDV must not be diverted to other countries, only imported directly into Singapore.

For export, transshipment, or transit of Strategic Goods

A Strategic Goods Control (SGC) TradeNet Permit must be obtained if one intends to tranship, export or bring in Strategic Goods. They are regulated by the Strategic Goods (Control) Act which covers all goods and technology that are likely to be used or intended for weapons of mass destruction.

For export of local goods

Singapore exporters may be asked for a Certificate of Origin (CO) by buyers which is able to prove that goods are made in Singapore. Two types of Certificates of Origin exists:

  • Ordinary Certificates of Origin – to satisfy buyers that products exported are wholly obtained, produced or manufactured locally in Singapore.
  • Preferential Certificates of Origin – a document that help to improve the competitive edge of exports as it enables buyers to claim preferential tariff treatment when importing.

A Certificate of Origin can be applied through TradeNet® or via a freight forwarder or cargo agent.



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