State by State – ASEAN and Illinois Trade

Posted by Reading Time: 6 minutes


Op/ed Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Andrew Salzman, Dezan Shira & Associates

Part four in our on-going series comparing US States with ASEAN

ASEAN and Illinois enjoy a healthy trade relationship that encompasses new industries and doesn’t just rely on traditional sectors.  In 2013, Illinois ranked 6th amongst all American States for exports to ASEAN, achieving US$2.6 billion in exports – a 26.9 percent increase since 2009.

The top 5 industries for Illinois exports to SE Asia are:

  • Agriculture and related products US$685M (14.9 percent decrease)
  • Machinery (not electrical) US$448M (38.7 percent decrease)
  • Computer and electronic products US$408M (9.5 percent increase)
  • Transportation equipment US$303M (27.3 percent increase)
  • Chemicals US$262M (7.3 percent decrease)

As can be seen, traditional trade in the agricultural industry is declining between Illinois and ASEAN, as Asia gets more efficiencies into its own harvests and crop yields. Yet infrastructure-related equipment, and especially that related to transportation and cold storage are increasing, as are exports of computer and IT products – a welcome sign that Illinois is keeping abreast of the changing and improving consumer dynamics in ASEAN.  

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The Top 5 industries for Illinois imports from Southeast Asia are:

  • Computer and electronic products US$2.1B (39.7 percent increase)
  • Electrical equipment, appliance and components US$788M (5.7 percent increase)
  • Miscellaneous manufactured commodities US$392M (3 percent decrease)
  • Agriculture and related products US$555M (43.1 percent increase)
  • Chemicals US$220M (16.4 percent decrease)

As can be seen, trade in agriculture between the two has seen a complete reversal: Illinois exports to ASEAN have dropped, and been replaced by trade from ASEAN to Illinois. However healthy cooperation in IT, with U.S. products being matched with Asian components and then re-exported by both, is a growing trend. As can be expected, cheaper ASEAN manufactured electrical products are also a major sourcing part of Illinois buyers.  When exports and imports are considered as a whole, Illinois and ASEAN can be seen to have a healthy trade balance and a mutually beneficial growth curve in hi-tech products. 

In addition to this, Illinois had 26,524 jobs supported by ASEAN in 2012; half directly supported, and the other half indirectly supported. The top 5 Illinois firms for employment in Southeast Asia are:

  • Motorola Solutions
  • Baxter International
  • Caterpillar
  • Abbot Laboratories
  • Coilcraft 

ASEAN’s top trading nations with Illinois are as follows:


Illinois exported US$527M to Indonesia in 2014, up 8.3 percent from 2013. Indonesia ranked 21st in imports from Illinois. Exports to Indonesia have grown about 14 percent a year since 2003. Illinois imported US$930M from Indonesia in 2014, up 27.5 percent from 2013. Indonesia ranked 19th in exports to Illinois.


Malaysia imported US$1.724B from Illinois in 2014, up slightly from 2013. Malaysia ranked 13th in imports from Illinois in 2014.

Related-Reading-Icon-Asean Link State by State: China and Illinois Trade

Illinois exported US$1.237B to Singapore in 2014, up 2.6 percent from 2013. Singapore ranked 11th in imports from Illinois, much of this destined for other markets within the ASEAN hub. Illinois imported USD871M from Singapore in 2014, up 3 percent from 2013. Singapore ranked 20th in exports to Illinois.


Illinois imported US$1.197B from Thailand in 2014, up 19.4 percent from 2013. Thailand ranked 17th in imports to Illinois in 2014.


There is a Philippine Consulate General located in Chicago, and trade between the two can be expected to improve.

Chicago of course is one of the great American cities, and has an extensive ‘sister city’ program. However, at present this does not include any cities within ASEAN. More effort needs to be put into this in order to support and better understand what is a dynamic and fast developing trade relationship. It is worth noting that the annual per capita income for a working male in Chicago is currently US$35,905, while in Singapore, the de facto capital of the ASEAN region, it is US$55,182.  

Free Trade

Illinois companies interested in ASEAN can take advantage of ASEAN’s free trade agreements with both China and India. Signed off in 2010, these FTA have reduced tariffs on 97 percent of all traded products between ASEAN and China, and ASEAN and India, to zero. American companies, via establishing a subsidiary in ASEAN can have that local entity, purely by its geographical location, qualify as an ASEAN company and accordingly access these FTA benefits. Rules of Origin apply, and generally require 40 percent ASEAN components in the mix, allowing US parts to also be included prior to duty free export either across ASEAN or to China and India. Using ASEAN as a base to further penetrate Asian markets and reduce China manufacturing costs is now becoming a trend.

The United States also has a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore, which contains tariff reduction provisions for trade in goods and services, and the tax treatment of American nationals employed in Singapore. Additionally, the United States has signed Double Tax Treaties with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, SingaporeThailand and conveys Most Favored Nation status upon Vietnam. These can reduce profits tax burdens under certain circumstances in both trade and any ASEAN legal establishment. Please seek professional advice for specific ASEAN investment requirements.

With existing and healthy trade ties between Illinois and Singapore especially, there is still greater scope for Illinois businesses to reach further out into the ASEAN region and continue to expand and develop their trade links. The American Embassy in Singapore estimates about 26,000 US citizens live in Singapore, mostly employed by the 3,500 American businesses, many of them in the services industry that are already operational there.  The message for Illinois exporters is clear – ASEAN, possibly via Singapore, should be part of your overall investment and business development strategy.

Further Support from Dezan Shira & Associates

Dezan Shira & Associates can service Illinois-based companies that are looking to further develop their operation in ASEAN. The firm can help companies establish a direct office in the country and can guide them through the affiliated tax, legal and HR issues that come with doing so. To arrange a free consultation, please contact our U.S. office at

For further Illinois-Asia trade data, please see our articles on trade with IndiaChina and Vietnam.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

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