Investing in trade way forward for stronger relations
By Waleed PD Mahdini

The significance of the Exchange of Letters that had been signed on March 16, earlier this year, over overlapping maritime and land border issues marked a historic watershed for Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia, which served as a testament to the strong ties between the two countries in paving the way for both sides to move forward in further elevating the existing friendship and cooperation to a higher and more meaningful strategic partnership.

This was one of the main points in a joint statement that was issued following the 13th Annual Leaders' Consultation that took place yesterday morning between His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

"Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together towards the expeditious implementation of elements agreed in the document," the statement said, adding: "The continued progress in the economic, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries was welcomed by both leaders as an affirmation of their strong determination in strengthening the existing bilateral cooperation."

His Majesty and the visiting Malaysian premier, met for just under an hour for their annual four-eye consultation behind closed doors at the Cheradi Laila Kenchana at Istana Nurul Iman, which culminated in the signing of the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, which the two leaders hailed to "their satisfaction, believing that the agreement will facilitate greater bilateral economic collaboration".

According to Malaysian news agency, Bernama: "Under the treaty, the maximum rates of withholding tax are 10 per cent respectively on dividends, individual or company, royalties and fees for technical services."

Emphasising the need to press on further by promoting investments between Brunei and Malaysia, both leaders would encourage their public and private sectors to seek out new areas of cooperation in trade and investment, including the possibility of conducting joint third country investments.

The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak were recognised by the two leaders as potential areas for increased cooperation, namely in agriculture, Halal products and palm oil plantation. One recent example cited in the joint statement was the efforts to promote tourism in particular with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in March this year between Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) and the Sabah Tourism Board, as well as the recent code sharing agreement between RBA and Malaysian Airlines, "which underlines both countries' commitment towards tourism development, as well as intensifying friendship and understanding".

This the two leaders said "underscored the significance of continuing cooperation in the transportation sector to further promote trade and investment linkages and tourism between the two countries", as an extension that includes the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Energy-related activities are another area in which the two leaders encouraged more collaboration in, especially in the development of hydroelectric and hydrocarbon downstream industries.

Brunei's possible interest in participating in the economic corridors of Malaysia, namely Johor's Iskandar Development Region, received praise by Malaysia for Brunei's proposal to establish Joint Committees for the facilitation and creation of a more conducive environment in the aim of promoting greater cooperation.

Regional and international issues of mutual concern were also discussed by both leaders during the consultation, where they reaffirmed their unanimous agreement on the need to work closely in addressing the current global economic crisis and the threat of pandemic diseases, including the Influenza A(H1N1).

In commending the close partnership between the two countries in promoting peace, security and prosperity in the regional and international arena, the leaders expressed their satisfaction on the outcome of the consultation and believed that such a mechanism strengthened bilateral relations and cooperation.

The next annual consultation, the 14th, will be hosted by Malaysia next year. - Borneo Bulletin (6th August 2009)