Firms urged to consider manufacturing in US

Singapore's trade agency has advised firms to review their supply chains and consider setting up manufacturing facilities in the United States, in the light of President- elect Donald Trump's anti-globalisation rhetoric during the campaign.

International Enterprise (IE) Singapore noted yesterday that while there will not likely be much impact in the short to medium term, it would be prudent for companies to rethink their strategies.

Ms Yeoh Mei Ling, its regional centre director for the US, said it is timely for some firms to look into manufacturing there. "We would encourage Singapore companies that already have a large customer base in the US to perhaps relook at their supply chain, and look at whether it makes sense for them to move part of the manufacturing to the US.

"The reason to be in the US is to be close to customers, reactive to customer demands and perhaps to meet demand where there are local content requirements."

Ms Yeoh emphasised that the cost and economics of such a decision mean that it is not for every company, but she pointed to Singapore firms that have done so, such as mainboard-listed manufacturing giant Venture Corp, which has facilities in California.

IE Singapore's advice comes after reports last week that technology giant Apple reportedly asked the two Asian firms that assemble the bulk of its iPhones to assess whether they can bring the work to the US.

Ms Yeoh, who is based in New York, noted that more companies across sectors such as chemicals and textiles were interested in exploring manufacturing opportunities in the US even before the election, mainly because they have strong client bases there.

She added that IE Singapore has seen much more interest from local companies in the US market. "This year, we expect to facilitate around 30 projects, which is a 50 per cent increase from three years ago."

The companies are generally in the technology and consumer sectors, keen to take advantage of the huge US market.

It is business as usual for most Singapore firms that sell to the US, said Ms Yeoh, who cited artificial intelligence start-up ViSenze, which is going ahead with its growth plans in the US. She highlighted that while Mr Trump's policy plans remain to be seen, his rhetoric so far has been pro-business, which should present opportunities for Singapore businesses.

For instance, Mr Trump has spoken about increasing infrastructure investment, which could be a new avenue of investment for Singapore companies, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Firms urged to consider manufacturing in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe