Sultan holds bilateral talks with S'pore PM
By Waleed PD Mahdini in Singapore

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday held a bilateral meeting with the chair of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit on the sidelines of two-day Economic Leaders Meeting.

The monarch and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed issues of bilateral concern between the two friendly countries at the Istana.

Earlier in the day, the two countries also signed a trade exempt deal to facilitate and increase greater trade.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit 2009, the largest and most important annual business meeting in the Asia Pacific, kicked off yesterday with its highest attendance ever, underscoring the growing importance of the event.

In her opening remarks, the Chair of the Apec CEO Summit Chong Siak Ching cited a monumental task before the assembled delegates and representatives of the international business community - to rebuild the global economy.

Echoing this reminder, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his keynote address suggested that the region is indeed emerging from the crisis as trade within the 21 Apec members is rising and that there are strong promising indications of a clear, modest recovery. However, the actions of governments and the consequent business reaction in the coming months will determine the sustainability of growth. According to him, "Rebalancing must occur between Asia and the USA. Americans are saving more than they have before and the demand must grow elsewhere to drive the economy. Many look to China and Asia to increase demand, but this will take time."

In the session "Is the Global Crisis Really Over?" moderated by Dato Timothy Ong, Acting Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board opened with a glimpse of the sentiment on the state of the global economy.

Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak, one of the speakers responded that the crisis is generally over, but questions still remain as to whether it can be sustained and whether growth can ever return to pre-crisis levels. He emphasised that "To ensure continued momentum, Apec's markets must be kept open and that free trade continue to be high on the Apec agenda."

Similar views were expressed by Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank; Dennis Nally, Global Chairman, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Dr Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank and Madhu Koneru, CEO, MEC Holdings.

Dr Victor Fung, Chairman of Li & Fung, however, was not as optimistic and pointed out that global markets are still down, with US$3 trillion lost in global demand from the US alone. "Asia is picking up the slack, but this will not be enough," said the prominent Honk Kong businessman.

"There are indications to suggest that the worst may be over, but in looking to the future, we must ask ourselves what lies ahead, and what the challenges and opportunities are," reminded Dato Ong.

Brunei Darussalam has made a distinctive mark at this year's Apec CEO Summit with the participation of several Bruneian business delegates and a Bruneian company, Asia Inc Forum, as the summit's strategic partner and advisor.

Since March this year - as in four previous Apec CEO Summits in Peru, Vietnam, Chile, and Thailand - Asia Inc Forum has been instrumental in advising the respective organisers on developing the summit programme, bringing together 14 world leaders, 33 chairmen and CEOs; and more than 20 thought leaders as distinguished speakers; securing sponsorships and providing advice on organising this important world-class business event.

The Presidents and Prime Ministers of China, Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand delivered their thoughts and opinions during the 2009 Summit, joined by highly respected figures including Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan; Dr Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007 and Chairman, Copenhagen Climate Council; Stephen Green, Chairman, HSBC Holdings; Deborah Henretta, Group President for Asia, Procter & Gamble; and Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft to name a few.

Allen Lai, Director of Asia Inc Forum remarked, "With over 1,200 delegates, this year's Apec CEO Summit on November 12-14 is an excellent opportunity to engage and collaborate with top global players the likes of HSBC, Siemens, PricewaterhouseCoopers, DHL and Procter & Gamble," adding, "We encourage the Bruneian business community to fully leverage this annual platform and take full advantage of the opportunities for high-level linkages across the region."

The city of Yokohama, Japan will be the venue of next year's Apec CEO Summit. - Borneo Bulletin (14th November 2009)