Brunei-Japan FTA comes into force
By M K Anwar

The free trade agreement between Japan and Brunei has officially taken effect from yesterday.

This was the outcome of the first Joint Committee meeting, which was established following the signing of the Brunei-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (BJEPA) by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, on June 18 last year in Tokyo.

Representing Brunei at the first Joint Committee meeting in Tokyo yesterday was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, while for Japan it was Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga.

In a joint statement issued following the meeting, the ministers reaffirmed their resolve to ensure the effective implementation and shared the view that the agreement will contribute to enhancing the cross-border flow of goods, services and investment between the two countries, ensuring the stable supply of energy, and improving the business environments of both Japan and Brunei Darussalam.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah noted in his statement that the agreement took the countries' long friendship and cooperation to a new level and would bring strong confidence to the business communities.

The BJEPA plans to eliminate all the bilateral trade tariffs in 10 years.

It was reported that Brunei would get rid of the current 20 per cent tariff on cars and almost all auto parts from Japan within three years.

This, in particular, is good news for motor vehicle owners in Brunei as Japanese made cars dominate the local market. About 70 per cent of Japan's exports to Brunei are cars and auto parts.

Japan, meanwhile, will remove with immediate effect tariffs on agricultural and fishery products from Brunei such as mangoes, durian and shrimp.

It was noted in the Joint Statement that the private sectors of both countries have always had good relationships in various fields even before the agreement came into force.

The two countries hoped that with the agreement now taking effect, the activities of the private sectors would be further accelerated and improved and will continue to enhance the economic ties of both countries.

The five-point Joint statement issued after the Joint Committee meeting concluded by saying that both countries concured that the agreement will bring the relationship to a new and higher level of partnership and enable both countries to make the most of their economic complementarities and further promote the development of their respective economies.

According to AFP, Japan in 2007 imported US$2.7 billion worth of goods, primarily oil and natural gas from Brunei.

Japan mainly shipped machinery and other goods in its 14.5 billion yen worth of exports to Brunei.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah also attended a bilateral meeting and a luncheon hosted by Foreign Minister Koumura and another bilateral meeting with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Akira Amari, in which the latest developments in the Brunei-Japan cooperation were discussed.

In the afternoon, His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah were received in a private audience by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito and Her Majesty Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace. - Borneo Bulletin (1st August 2008)