Sultan upbeat on free trade agreement
Hakim Hayat in Beijing, China

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday expressed confidence that good momentum will continue to be built in closing the gap to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

In a titah, His Majesty expressed support for the process and added that necessary resources will continue to be made available to collectively finish the remaining tasks at the earliest time possible.

At the 5th TPP Leaders’ Meeting, which was attended by all 12 negotiating countries and chaired by US President Barack Obama at the US Embassy in Beijing yesterday, the monarch also praised efforts being made by negotiating countries in realising the ambitious free trade deal for the region, which has been under negotiations for nearly a decade now and largely stalled this year due to an impasse between the US and Japan over how widely Japan will open its doors to farm exports.

“Much resources, time and effort have been dedicated by each country to develop a well-balanced agreement, which took into account all concerns and challenges.”

His Majesty said that a lot of work has been done to address specific circumstances that are unique to member economies. In this regard, His Majesty appreciated the efforts of ministers, chief negotiators and officials concerned.

With respect to specific circumstances of Brunei Darussalam’s economy, His Majesty valued the understanding shown by member countries in recognising the country’s challenges as evident in the flexibilities accorded.

His Majesty expressed his gratitude for the assurances to assist Brunei Darussalam’s capacity to take on the challenging parts of the agreement.

Opening the meeting earlier, President Obama urged his fellow leaders to break some of the remaining gridlocks and “move towards a historic deal” and said he sees momentum building for the Washington-backed TPP agreement.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, who delivered a report on the current status of the TPP during the meeting, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that there will be no “major announcement” on the TPP free trade deal during the meeting of leaders in Beijing this week.

The TPP is a proposed free trade deal between the US, Canada and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Brunei Darussalam. It originally began as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement between Singapore, Chile, New Zealand and Brunei in 2006 before the US took the lead in 2009.

The pact, which is aimed at deepening economic ties between these nations, is expected to eliminate or substantially reduce tariffs on the trade of goods and services between member nations, and boost investment flows.

Accompanying His Majesty to the meeting 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; and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II. - Borneo Bulletin (11 November 2014)