Vietnamese official:

Singapore trade policies increasingly cautious

06:00 | 20/04/2020 Cooperation

(VEN)- Singapore has adopted increasingly cautious trade policies to avoid dependence on specific export or import markets as it tackles the Covid-19 spread. Vietnam Economic News’ Thu Phuong and Nguyen Huong discussed the issue with Dr. Tran Thu Quynh, Vietnam’s Trade Counselor in Singapore.

What has the Vietnam Trade Office in Singapore done to help Vietnamese enterprises expand their market?

While the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming more complicated, the Vietnam Trade Office in Singapore is supplying Vietnamese business with regular and rapid updates of policy changes. Electronic connectivity has been an important part of the office’s operations since 2018.

The office launched a free, bilingual (English-Vietnamese) website on which Singaporean businesses can look for potential Vietnamese goods and service suppliers and vice versa.

The trade office also plans to help Vietnamese enterprises participate in food trade fairs and exhibitions in Singapore. It has already organized a number of Singaporean business delegations to Vietnam to conduct market surveys and seek business connectivity. Specifically, in February, the trade office arranged a visit by several Singaporean fruit and vegetable importers to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta provinces to forge connections and buy fruits and vegetables, including blue dragon fruit, watermelon, jackfruit, longan, star apple, coconut fruit, rambutan, and bananas, among others.

A series of trade promotion events including trade fairs in Singapore have been canceled due to the pandemic. Instead, the trade office has encouraged Vietnamese businesses to send sample products to Singapore to boost exports, including coffee, fish sauce, rice paper, and coconut oil.

Once the pandemic is under control, the trade office will again arrange visits to Vietnam of Singaporean business delegations seeking to buy rice and fruit and locate seafood suppliers. It will work with the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore and Singaporean agencies and business associations to hold trade promotion events in Singapore, including a Vietnam Goods Week at Fairprice supermarkets, a Vietnamese Food Week at the Mandarin Hotel, and a Vietnamese Coffee Week as a cooperative event with the Singapore Coffee Association (SCA), among others. We will attach much importance to promoting Vietnamese industrial products at a competitive price for which Singapore has growing demand, such as electric cables, aluminum and plastic doors, household plastics, and indoor furniture.

singapore trade policies increasingly cautious
In March, Vietnam exported an estimated 500 tonnes of farm produce to Singapore, including dragon fruit, coffee, instant noodles, sweet potatoes, cabbage, squash, eggplant, pineapple, and watermelon.

Are there any changes in Singaporean goods import policies? Will they offer opportunities for Vietnamese businesses?

Singapore is a highly open market with a large trade value, and it applies no restrictions and no non-tariff barriers to imports, except those set by international organizations (OIE and Codex). More than 99 percent of goods imported to Singapore (except cars, gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes) are tax-free. Singapore is a large transshipment and temporary import and re-export market, which accounts for up to 43 percent of its import value. Singapore trades with 220 import partners worldwide. Given the growing complexity of the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore has adopted increasingly cautious trade policies to avoid dependence on specific export or import markets. Singapore has controlled its exports to specific markets to ensure that they represent no more than 15 percent of its total export value. The rate is expected to be decreased for both exports and imports.

Vietnamese businesses have great opportunities to penetrate the Singaporean market, and they can reach other foreign markets worldwide through Singapore. However, to do so, Vietnamese enterprises must improve product quality to international standards. Regarding processed foods and beverages, they should pay attention to English language packaging and instructions, expiry dates and such certifications as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Halal. Price is also important, as consumers in Singapore always look for the best products at the most reasonable price.

The expanding Covid-19 pandemic is affecting materials supplies for Vietnamese enterprises, especially in the textile-garment and leather and footwear industries. How will the trade office assist them to look for new sources?

We are prioritizing leather and footwear and textile and garment exports to Singapore and strengthening these exports to other foreign markets through Singapore. We have strengthened connectivity with trade intermediaries to help Vietnamese businesses in finding new sources of materials, including raw materials, accessories, components, and spare parts, as substitutes for Chinese sources.

Vietnamese exporters need to pay attention to chain connectivity with suppliers of transport, warehousing and cargo gathering services, especially by building websites and digital information exchange capacity. According to the Vietnam Industry and Trade Information Center (VITIC), Vietnam earned US$256.1 million from exporting goods to Singapore in February (up 7.75 percent from January), taking the total to US$489.41 million in the first two months of this year, up 0.49 percent from the same time last year.

Thu Phuong& Nguyen Huong