APEC on the right track to enhance food security
Siti Hajar in Vladivostok, Russia

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday expressed satisfaction over the continued emphasis on food security in the region, especially with the recent formation of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Policy Partnership on Food Security. His Majesty added that such a move is in itself quite a remarkable achievement for APEC. The bloc will now be able to address the topic in a more holistic manner, opening up a channel of communication between the suppliers in the industry, down to the consumers and the people in the region.

His Majesty delivered a titah at the Retreat Session Two at Far Eastern Federal University, Russky Island, Vladivostok.

His Majesty consented to attend the Retreat Session Two of the 20th APEC Economic Leaders Meeting and Working Lunch.

This year's APEC gathering ended on a positive note with leaders from across the 21 economies dotting the Pacific Rim pledging to improve the financial state of the region.

His Majesty left Vladivostok yesterday afternoon after attending the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting 2012.

Before leaving for the airport, a doa selamat was read by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

Present at the Vladivostok International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were Mr Yuri Analtolyevich Filatov, Director of Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Protocol Department; Mr Aleksandr Ivanovich Kostenko, First Vice Governor of Primosky Region; and Ms Yekaterina Aleksandrovna Khimich, First Deputy Head of the Administration of the City of Vladivostok.

Also present at the airport were Haji Awang Haini bin Haji Hashim, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Russian Federation as well as officers from the Brunei Darussalam Embassy in the Federation of Russia.

Earlier during the Retreat session, the leaders focused their discussion on issues related to food security and innovative development. On food security, the leaders discussed various initiatives aimed at enhancing food security in the APEC region through the implementation of the Niigata Declaration and the Kazan Declaration, as well as measures, such as increasing productivity through investments, including encouraging foreign direct investment, use of innovative technology in the field of agriculture, and creating an environment that encourages public-private partnerships.

Recognising the importance of innovation to economic growth, prosperity and job creation, APEC leaders discussed steps to develop effective, non-discriminatory and market-driven innovation policies and refinement of the vision of innovation cooperation and networking in the region.

His Majesty said that Brunei was also trying to emulate this process by talking not only to the relevant people domestically but also in close partnerships with its friends abroad on a bilateral basis and at the regional level, for instance, through the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) which Asean has developed with China, Japan and Korea, in order to learn from one another through technology transfers and capacity building exchanges.

His Majesty believed that APEC is on the right track, looking at concerns relating to agriculture and marine sustainability. It is linked with Indonesia's priority agenda next year on the Blue Economy to tackle marine and coastal resources conservation. In this regard, His Majesty is looking forward to the recommendations of the APEC Policy Group so that APEC can come up with a comprehensive strategy on food security by 2020 that would also tackle the problem during times of natural disasters.

His Majesty continued to state that innovation driven by strong public-private partnerships creates competition across various industry sectors and most important of all it generates a highly educated and skilled workforce for economies. For Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty highlighted that such a partnership is one of the focuses of the National Development Plan which is to promote, amongst others, innovation in our small and medium enterprises and also in our young through education cooperation in support of researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

His Majesty expressed satisfaction to learn that several APEC initiatives on this had taken off the ground since the leaders met in Hawaii last year, such as the decision to hold the meeting of chief science advisors next year in Indonesia and Russia's own proposals on nano technologies for energy efficiency, promoting cross-border education cooperation and setting up of the Policy Partnership on Innovation. All of these steps will contribute to the Asia-Pacific's productivity and strengthen its competitiveness.

After the Second Retreat Session, His Majesty joined other APEC leaders for a group photo.

In the afternoon, His Majesty attended the Working Lunch held at Far Eastern Federal University, Russky Island. During the Working Lunch, leaders discussed current economic situation in the world and in Asia-Pacific with the presence of the Managing Director of International Monetary Fund and the President of the World Bank.

Accompanying His Majesty at the Sessions were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; and Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (R) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office.

Later, in a press conference following the end of the two-day APEC Leaders' Week, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation said that the Russian government has suggested members to take advantage of Russia's geographical location as "transit potential" as part of the APEC chair's efforts in realising one of their four-point focus issues that is to establish reliable supply chains.

The move to open up Russia for this purpose, he said, is part and parcel of the efforts "to diversify regional and global supply chains and to create new, shorter, more profitable routes that will link the Asia-Pacific and Europe across both the continental regions of Russia and through the North Sea route".

For Brunei Darussalam, this particular endeavour will also open up bigger opportunities in reaching out to a wider market especially considering that the Sultanate is looking towards supplementing its national income through various means such as, but not limited to, the promotion of the country's Halal branding and products, its work in the information and technology field as well as the promotion of tourism to potential visitors from across the globe.

This particular topic was highlighted by His Majesty during the opening of the meeting where the monarch had welcomed this APEC effort and other related initiatives towards ensuring that the current global economic situation will not hinder the region's capacity to facilitate trade and investment across different countries.

The joint leaders' statement said that member countries have re-affirmed their commitment to achieving an APEC-wide target of a 10 per cent improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015 in terms of reduction of time, cost and uncertainty of moving goods and services through the region.

One of the most historical moments during this year's APEC reflected in its preservation efforts with the inclusion of a reduction of tariff to five per cent or less on environmental goods to be put in place by 2015. President Putin had also voiced his government's readiness to aid Asia-Pacific countries with their own experiences along the lines of safe-guarding biodiversity and combating the trafficking of endangered species.

"Environmental protection has strong economic dimensions," pointed President Putin and for Brunei, this statement would refer to the initiatives that are currently being done to reduce the wastage of energy, preserving the nation's green gold as well as fragile marine and wildlife and the promotion of eco-tourism.

"We reaffirm our commitment to promote green growth and to seeking practical, trade-enhancing solutions to address global environmental changes," stated the joint statement and continued on with leaders' acknowledging the need for joint actions to prevent "the negative influence on the world's economy from carbon emissions".

The participation of women, meanwhile, was also among the topics highlighted in the statement, stressing that the role played by the fairer sex is "crucial" in achieving economic prosperity and inclusive growth in the region. It added that the leader's have pledged to the encouragement of investing in women through the creation of better business opportunities and including them in the innovative economy in light of the fact "many barriers still exist, especially in the areas of access to capital, access to markets, skills and capacity building and women's leadership".

In looking forward, the leaders believe that the work that has been done this year towards building a more integrated society and ensure innovation-based economic growth will contribute to "our common goal of achieving prosperity for APEC economies".

Next year's APEC, meanwhile, will be chaired by Asean member state and one of Brunei's closest neighbours, Indonesia. It will be held in Bali. - Borneo Bulletin (10 September 2012)