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China to become Singapore's 2nd largest trading partner by 2030

Pic credit: OlliL

Malaysia though will remain on top.

According to the new HSBC Global Connections report, Singapore’s exports to Asia (excluding Japan) are expected to rise a fairly robust 7% a year on average during 2021-30, with the fastest growing trade routes being with China, India and Vietnam over this period. India, for its part, is expected to surge and become Singapore’s fifth largest trading partner by 2030.

On traders’ sentiments, the HSBC Trade Confidence Index survey shows Singaporean traders are less optimistic today than they were six months ago with scores dropping from their second highest level of 115 to 104.

"Even with this, the general viewpoint remains positive as 74% of businesses surveyed say they expect trade volumes to remain at current levels or increase over the course of the next six months. This is not the case in terms of the global economy, where 70% anticipate a decrease and only 5% foresee an upswing," said HSBC.

Joseph Arena, Head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance, HSBC Singapore, said: “While a challenging 2012 has brought about less optimism amongst Singapore traders, those surveyed are positive that trade volumes will continue to increase. Indeed, this positive outlook is supported by the latest HSBC Trade Forecast, which predicts an increase in trade for Asia in 2013, driven by emerging economies such as China and India. Singapore as a trading hub will benefit from this trade growth, with China, India and Vietnam being our fastest growing trade routes.”

“As emerging markets in Asia move up the value chain, this growing intra-regional trade is reshaping trade routes and creating powerful networks outside of developed markets. Singapore businesses that are expanding into these emerging markets will benefit from this trend, but also face a myriad of new challenges. The sheer diversity and complexity of today's trade flows requires financing solutions flexible enough to deal with a continually shifting trade landscape, as well as to reach into new and more complex markets,” he said.

Demand for China’s exports will continue to grow rapidly over the next twenty years, according to the HSBC Global Connections trade forecast. 

Whilst China’s export growth has slowed, particularly for goods destined for Europe, a gradual economic recovery is expected to unfold in 2013 as stimulus efforts in China support domestic demand and fuel a resurgence of trade with other economies in the region. Over the medium term, prospects for Chinese exports will continue to be brightest in the emerging market economies as demand growth remains persistently subdued in the major developed economies.

Reflecting this outlook, growth in Chinese exports is expected to be most rapid to other economies in Asia (ex-Japan), with an average annual pace of expansion of 15% a year during 2013-2015. Vietnam and India will be the fastest expanding markets for Chinese products, with annual export growth of 18% and 20% respectively over this period.

Although starting from a low base, export growth to new markets in rapidly-growing sub-Saharan Africa will accelerate to around 5% a year during 2021-30. Exports to the Middle East and North Africa will also rise at a similar pace over this period. From this region, Egypt will be one of the fastest growing trade routes, with growth averaging 6% a year.

The weakness of demand in the Eurozone is such that Singapore’s exports to Europe (excluding Russia) are expected to be largely flat from 2013-15, with growth subsequently recovering to just 3% a year on average in the decade to 2030. Exports to mature markets in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania are also expected to remain lacklustre in the medium term, with growth averaging just over 3% a year during 2021-30.

China, India and Vietnam will be the fastest growing routes for imports to Singapore. But Singapore will also begin look further afield for its imports, with countries such as Turkey growing in importance as a source of imports over the medium term.

Whilst Singapore will continue to be an important trade hub for the South East Asia region, and exports will continue to make up around 200% of Singapore’s GDP, the maturity of the market means Singapore will gradually lose global market share to the emerging markets. But Singapore’s pre-eminence within emerging Asia in electronics, pharmaceuticals and other industries is expected to remain.

With an index score of 104, Singaporean traders are less optimistic today than they were six months ago, according to the HSBC Trade Confidence Index. 

Importers and exporters appear to be split on their outlooks. Buyers in Singapore have confidence that their overseas suppliers will deliver, with only 13% indicating they expect an increase in trade agreements not being honoured. 21% of Singaporean sellers, on the other hand, believe the risk of their buyers defaulting on payments will increase in the next six month. This is up from 13% in H1 2012, and to protect themselves they are becoming less flexible by limiting credit amounts and requesting advance payment. In addition, they intend to use traditional trade finance products to further minimise risk.

International businesses in Singapore cite their main barriers to growth as fluctuating exchange rates (54%), insufficient margins (46%) and lack of demand (49%). The various sub-regions in Asia remain Singapore’s top trading partners and close to one-third of respondents say they will continue looking to one or more parts of Asia for future growth. The US and the UK have both become less significant in recent months with nearly 50% fewer Singaporean traders doing business in the two countries.

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