Guide to Starting a Trading Business in Singapore

1. Procedures for Setting up a Trading Company in Singapore

Step 1: Incorporate a Company

The first step towards conducting business as a publishing business in Singapore is to incorporate a company.

Step 2: Register with Singapore Custom

Before you can import/export any goods in and out of the country, you’ll need to first activate your account with Singapore Customs. Your account will be activated within 1-2 business days after you submit your application. You will then be issued an approval letter from Customs, valid for as long as your company exists.

Step 3: Apply for Licenses and Permits

You will need to obtain a Permit through Trade Net before you can import or export goods. Using Singapore’s Trade Net, you can submit your permit applications electronically to the relevant government bodies for processing. You’ll need to apply for a permit in order to import goods, and another one for exporting goods.


2. License and Permits for Trading Business in Singapore

(1) Import and Export of All Goods

Before you can import any goods (which include controlled and non-controlled goods) into Singapore, you’ll have to apply for an IN Permit through Trade Net and you’ll have to do it before the goods are imported into Singapore.

Before you can export any goods (which include controlled and non-controlled goods) into Singapore, you’ll have to apply for an OUT Permit through Trade Net and you’ll have to do it:

  • before the goods are exported out of Singapore (if the goods are controlled and/or being transported via road or rail);
  • within 3 days of exports (if the goods are non-controlled or transported via air or sea);
  •  before exporting any goods that were previously imported under the Temporary Import Scheme; or
  •  before exporting any goods under the Temporary Export Scheme.

There are some scenarios in which the goods may be imported/exported without requiring a permit. Example: Importing/exporting trade samples of uncontrolled items which have a total value that does not exceed SGD 400 based on CIF (Costs, Insurance and Freight) value.

(2) Import and Export of Controlled Goods

There are some goods that are labeled as ‘controlled goods’ and the import/export of these goods come under the control of the Controlling Agencies. Examples of controlled goods: cigarettes or any tobacco product, animals, food products, petrochemicals and drugs.

If you want to import/export controlled goods, you’ll need a permit, which is in addition to the IN and OUT permits mentioned above. Permit applications for the import/export of controlled goods can be submitted to your freight forwarder/cargo agent or relevant Controlling Agencies (through the Trade Net System) for processing and approval.

(3) Import of High-technology Goods

There are certain high-technology goods on the market which the exporting country subjects to special export control. In this case, the importer in Singapore might be asked to present an ICDV – Import Certificate and Delivery Verification – by the exporter. You can apply for an ICDV from Singapore Customs. Any item covered by this ICDV has to be imported into Singapore directly, without diverting it to any other countries.

(4) Export/Trans-shipment/Transit of Strategic Goods

Strategic goods include goods and technology which have, as their main use, or intended to be used as weapons of mass destruction. Such goods are regulated by the Strategic Goods (Control) Act. If you’re going to be exporting, trans-shipping or bringing-in-for-transit these Strategic Goods, you must obtain a SGC (Strategic Goods Control) Trade Net Permit.

(5) Export of Local Goods

If you’re a Singaporean exporter, be aware that there are certain buyers who may require to present them with a CO – Certificate of Origin. This Certificate of Origin is proof that the goods you are exporting are made in Singapore.

Certificates of Origin can be divided into 2 types:

  • Ordinary Certificate of Origin – Certifies that the products being exported are wholly obtained, produced or manufactured in Singapore.
  • Preferential Certificate of Origin – With a Preferential Certificate of Origin, you can get a competitive edge when it comes to your exports because a Preferential Certificate of Origin enables your buyer(s) to claim preferential tariff treatment when they import your goods under one of the Free Trade Agreements or Schemes of Preference.

Application for a CO can be done through your freight forwarder/cargo agent or through Trade Net