Sultan stresses integration and open economies
Siti Hajar in Vladivostok, Russia

The first day of one of the most-anticipated global events kicked off yesterday afternoon as 21 leaders gathered for the 20th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting at the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island in Vladivostok to discuss financial issues that are of significance to the region.

With a total of four focus topics that were concentrated on over the last week during other APEC-related meetings that were put forward by Russia as this year's APEC chair, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the opening delivered a titah in which the monarch agreed with what has been highlighted on the list of agenda. And as echoed by many other leaders, His Majesty expressed concern on the current state of the global economy.

A press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office stated that the monarch had described the financial climate as one that "will undermine economic development in the APEC region and the confidence of its people".

It stated that His Majesty had stressed the important role that APEC has to undertake and for the membership to "continue its efforts to promote Regional Economic Integration and keeping their economies open, which would provide APEC a better platform to facilitate trade and investment flows across its borders" when taking into consideration that "APEC can capitalise on APEC's prominence in promoting trade and investment liberalisation" as per the agenda on Russia's four-point list.

The 21-member movement, he said, "has already made good progress in this area", referring to leaders' agreement to extend their commitment that was made last year during the Honolulu APEC against protectionism through a "standstill" until the end of 2015 that Brunei pledges to keep.

Efforts made by APEC in undertaking the Supply Chain Connectivity Framework Initiative and those similar to it that aims to see the development of reliable supply chains and reducing costs for APEC's regional trade as well as for its commercial operations with the European Union and other markets were also welcomed by His Majesty.

The monarch noted that this move would ensure that, "in spite of the current global economic situation, APEC region's capacity to facilitate trade and investment across the borders will not be compromised".

His Majesty also lauded efforts that are being made by APEC on promoting Green Growth with particular attention to the advancement the environmental goods and services agenda and reducing energy intensity by 45 per cent by 2035 that are, evidently, in line with Brunei's own energy efficiency and conservation effort.

"His Majesty," said the Prime Minister"s Office (PMO), "congratulated APEC's decision this year to emphasise efforts at promoting trade and investment at the core of its priorities as His Majesty believed that this is the right way forward to support the global economy and ensuring sustainable growth in the future".

APEC, His Majesty also said, can assist the G-20 "and their tireless endeavour to address this difficult situation" that is the economic crisis with forecasted reports pointing towards minimal growth unless serious action is taken to undermine it.

Leaders were also heard talking about the work done by APEC in realising the Bogor Goals and establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific as a major instrument to further APEC's regional economic integration agenda and also touched upon measures to achieve an APEC-wide target of a 10 per cent improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015.

With the recent earthquake in Southwestern China that saw the death toll at 80 with hundreds injured and leaving scores homeless, meanwhile, His Majesty also took the opportunity to express his condolences to the President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao who was among one of the leaders present at the Retreat Session One of the meeting.

To Russia represented by its President, Vladimir Putin, His Majesty congratulated the federation's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Prior to the commencement of the meeting, His Majesty, in the morning, had consented to attend bilateral meeting with the Republic of Chile's President, Sebastian Pinera where they spoke of issues related to the two-way relationship as well as regional and international matters of mutual concern.

Last night, His Majesty attended, with other leaders, an APEC Leaders' Official Dinner that was hosted by the Russian Federation president to welcome the influential group of individuals that was held at the main reception hall on the university campus.

Today, His Majesty is scheduled to attend the continuation of the APEC meetings. - Borneo Bulletin (9 September 2012)