State by State – ASEAN and Wisconsin Trade

Posted by Reading Time: 6 minutes


Op/ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

For a north-eastern State a long way from South-East Asia, the trade relationship between Wisconsin and ASEAN is remarkably robust, with a growing element of the dairy industry now finding its way to new export markets in Asia. In 2012, Wisconsin exported US$1.14 billion in goods and services to ASEAN nations, of which some US$900 million were consumer goods.

Wisconsin’s main exports to ASEAN can be broken down as follows:

1) Computers and electronic products

2) Machinery

3) Food and kindred products

4) Agricultural products

5) Transportation equipment

In 2012, ASEAN had a 4 percent share of total WI exports, while 7,429 Wisconsin jobs were supported by exports to the region. We examine how this is broken down amongst the larger ASEAN below.


Indonesia exported US$343M to Wisconsin in 2014, down 9.3 percent from 2013. It ranked 11th in exports to Wisconsin. During the 2014 Wisconsin Trade Mission to Indonesia and Singapore, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation considered the following to be key industries for Wisconsin companies to look out for:

  • Water and environmental equipment and technology
  • Aviation/aerospace
  • Energy power generation
  • Food processing and packaging machinery
  • Mining
  • Health care and med equipment and services
  • Defense and security
  • Clean energy
  • Food and agriculture products
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Top Wisconsin imports from Indonesia 2013: 

  • Knitted clothing
  • Non-knitted clothing
  • Electrical machinery

Top Wisconsin exports to Indonesia 2013: 

  • Industrial machinery
  • Electrical machinery
  • Medical and scientific instruments
  • Oil seeds
  • Transportation equipment

Milwaukee is twinned with Medan in Indonesia, the only sister city relationship it has thus far in Asia.


In 2014, Malaysia exported US$141M to Wisconsin, up 8.7 percent from 2013 and ranking 23rd overall. Should the TPP agreement be passed by Washington, this should significantly reduce numerous important Malaysian trade tariffs, including:

  • Malaysia import tariffs for aluminum foil –  30 percent in 2012
  • Malaysia import tariffs for coated foil – up to 20 percent in 2012
  • Wisconsin import tariffs on men’s synthetic fiber pants – 28.2 percent in 2013
  • Wisconsin import tariffs on men’s cotton shirts – 19.7 percent in 2013

In 2014, Wisconsin’s merchandise exports to Malaysia totaled US$122 million. Its leading exports included:

  • Computer and electronic products
  • Machinery, except electrical
  • Food products
  • Electrical equipment, appliances and components
  • Plastics and rubber products
Related-Reading-Icon-Asean Link State by State: China and Wisconsin Trade
The Philippines

The Philippines exported US$145 million goods to Wisconsin in 2014, up 12.2 percent from 2013 and ranking 22nd overall.

In 2014, Wisconsin’s merchandise exports to The Philippines totaled US$126 million. Its leading exports included:

  • Computer and electronic products
  • Machinery, except electrical
  • Food products
  • Electrical equipment, appliances and components
  • Chemicals

In 2014, Wisconsin exported US$245 million to Singapore, down 5.5 percent from 2013 and ranking 18th overall.

Water technology is a key shared industry. Milwaukee is home to The Water Council, the world’s largest concentration of water tech companies. Singapore is an importation hub for products for both its own advanced domestic consumer market, but also for re-exporting elsewhere across Asia. With a growing and increasingly consumer based society in Asia, water is becoming a highly valuable commodity, and technologies to preserve, distribute and clean water are highly sought after across the region.

In 2014, Wisconsin’s merchandise exports to Singapore totaled US$244 million. Its leading exports included:

  • Machinery, except electrical
  • Electrical equipment, appliances and components
  • Computer and electronic products
  • Chemicals
  • Transportation equipment

It should be noted that the average per capita income in Singapore is more than double that of Milwaukee – US$55,182 compared to US$23,740.


In 2014, Wisconsin exported US$$211 million to Thailand, up 3.6 percent from 2013 and ranking 20th overall. Its top merchandise exports included:

  • Computer and electronic products
  • Machinery, except electrical
  • Leather and allied products
  • Food products
  • Paper
Free Trade

Wisconsin companies interested in ASEAN can take advantage of ASEAN’s free trade agreements with both China and India. Signed off in 2010, these FTAs 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 can access these FTA benefits. Rules of Origin apply, and generally require 40 percent ASEAN components in the mix, allowing U.S. 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 profit tax burdens under certain circumstances in both trade and in any ASEAN legal establishment. Please seek professional advice for specific ASEAN investment requirements.

With existing and healthy trade ties between Wisconsin and Singapore especially, there is still greater scope for Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin exporters is clear – ASEAN, possibly via Singapore, should be part of your overall investment and business development strategy.

Wisconsin’s trade with ASEAN is positive for the State, which enjoys a healthy trade balance. However, more could be done by U.S. firms in the state to sell products to ASEAN, especially within consumer industries, such as dairy. Green technologies such as water conservation treatment and distribution also present an attractive market opportunity.

ASEAN remains an important hub for Wisconsin businesses to branch out and reach the markets of India and China, both of which follow similar demographic needs as ASEAN.

Further Support from Dezan Shira & Associates

Dezan Shira & Associates can service Wisconsin-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 Wisconsin-Asia trade data, please see our articles on trade with China.


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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