At the recent Singapore Budget 2019, Singapore’s Finance Minister aptly described Singapore’s continuous drive to be as “Asia 101 for global multinational companies (MNCs) looking to expand into Asia’s growing markets and as “Global 101 for Asian companies ready to go global”. This is all the more critical now given the current uncertain international trade climate. The US-China trade war, Brexit and a wider call for increased trade protectionism from various countries, industries and people are putting pressure on the rules-based international trade order that Singapore and other like-minded countries have thrived under for the last few decades.
Whether for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) or regional headquarters of MNCs based in Singapore, internationalisation of businesses to overseas markets is likely now prioritised as the next stage of business growth or an inevitable strategy to preserving businesses’ competitiveness and survival. Yet managing international trade and customs issues are often overlooked by businesses as potential showstoppers or enablers to overseas business operations. For both MNCs and SMEs alike, entering into new overseas markets and managing in these markets require a deep set of knowledge, know-hows and more importantly practical experiences to navigate through the various complexities of international trade and customs rules. Effective management of international trade and customs matters can lead to businesses achieving import duty savings, business efficiencies and yet be compliant in a sustainable manner.
An essential area to achieve import duty savings for businesses’ imports is through use of free trade agreements (FTAs) to achieve preferential import duty rates for imports from FTA signatory countries. The benefits extend to other aspects as well such as removal of non-tariff barriers for overseas markets etc. There are over 300 existing FTAs in the world such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area, ASEAN-China FTA, the Comprehensive & Progressive Trans -Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP) which businesses can explore utilising based on their global value chain set-ups. Businesses that strategically utilise FTAs can achieve significant import duty savings and hence gain price competitiveness for their imports over their competitors. The FTA rules are however typically cited by the business community as challenging to understand with its myriad of qualifying rules and compliance requirements, let alone practically apply them in their unique business set-ups.
With actual first-hand knowledge and experiences on the ground in managing international trade and customs matters, our expert trainers with rich industry practitioner and consulting backgrounds will share with participants an introductory overview of the various international trade and customs concepts with a basic focus on the strategic use of FTAs. More importantly, practical business insights to international trade set-ups, along with the multiple touchpoints of the international trade function with other business functions such as Tax, Procurement, Legal, Supply Chain etc. will also be shared to empower participants to provide value-add to their businesses as they internationalise!