Innovation essential in driving economic growth
Hakim Hayat in Beijing, China

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has called for the creation of an enabling environment to support market-based innovation, including the improvement of education system and investing more in research and development.

In a titah delivered at the second Retreat Session and closing of the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) at the International Convention Centre in Yanqi Lake, Beijing yesterday, His Majesty said that in order for Asia-Pacific to continue to be the engine of global growth, Apec needs to step up efforts to attain further progress in many of its initiatives and highlighted that innovation is an essential element in driving economic productivity and growth, especially for Apec’s small and medium businesses.

His Majesty welcomed the idea for a trade liberalisation framework proposal championed by China and registered his support for the roadmap, which was approved by all 21 members of the bloc.

A joint declaration at the end of the summit stated that members of the bloc have repeated their commitment to pursue the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) plan in a step-by-step manner based on consensus.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the media following the summit’s conclusion that leaders of the bloc have “approved the roadmap for Apec to promote and realise the FTAAP” and added that the support “symbolises the official launch of the process towards the FTAAP”.

The president called the step as “historic”, which he said reflected the confidence and commitment of Apec members to promote the integration of the regional economy.

His Majesty also said in the titah the FTAAP “would complement existing efforts to enhance regional economic integration” during the session, which was themed “Promoting Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth”.

His Majesty also said he was happy to learn that Apec had succeeded in tripling Internet access in the region, as had been targeted in Brunei Darussalam in the year 2000. “In fact, by 2010, Apec had already reached the goal of universal Internet access. This investment by member economies in ICT infrastructure will indeed help to increase the capacity of Apec’s human resources and entrepreneurs to innovate,” His Majesty noted.

The monarch also said Apec’s continuing efforts to undertake structural reforms is therefore necessary, especially to meet the demands of the new economy. “Reform in intellectual property rights, for instance, will help protect creative ideas of innovators and promote their ingenuity,” His Majesty further stated.

The ruler also hoped that Apec members could continue to support each other by sharing best practices and experiences. In this regard, His Majesty welcomed the Apec Accord on Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth, which the monarch believes goes hand-in-hand with advancing sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

His Majesty said that the health of the people plays a big part in increasing the region’s productivity levels. His Majesty commended Apec’s “Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020” initiative to promote healthy populations throughout the entire course of their lives.

However, the monarch said outbreaks of infectious diseases like SARs and most recently Ebola, have continued to threaten not only public health, but also economic sectors like agriculture, tourism and transportation.

His Majesty, therefore, urged increased cooperation in the prevention and control of these pandemic diseases, especially through capacity building and information sharing between Apec’s relevant agencies, and where possible, a collaboration with the private sector. His Majesty stated that Apec’s efforts in this area will certainly complement Asean’s “Vision for Health Development Beyond 2015: A Healthy, Caring and Sustainable Asean Community”.

Looking ahead, His Majesty reiterated the importance of economic and technical cooperation for the long-term development of Apec.

As Apec celebrates its 25th anniversary, His Majesty urged members to continue working together in ensuring that Ecotech remains a strong pillar in realising the Bogor Goals and in bridging development gaps.

In this regard, His Majesty joined other leaders in endorsing the Apec Strategic Plan on Capacity-Building to Promote Trade and Investment Agenda. His Majesty expressed his hope that with the strategic plan, capacity-building projects in Apec will be more demand-driven and tailored to assist developing economies.

At the second Retreat Session, Apec Economic Leaders discussed issues related to the Apec Accord on Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth, which identifies economic reform, new economy, innovative growth, inclusive support and urbanisation as the five pillars for promoting experience sharing, policy dialogue, capacity building and practical cooperation.

The Apec economies are also currently working to establish and implement policies to reach the goal of universal access to broadband by 2015. In addition, China has proposed the “Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020” initiative, aimed at promoting cooperation among economies in the field of health and setting a direction for the strategic plan 2016-2020.

Following the conclusion of the 22nd AELM, His Majesty left the Chinese capital for Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar to attend the 24th Asean Summit.

Before leaving the China World Hotel, 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.

At the Beijing Capital International Airport, His Majesty consented to walk past a static guard comprising army personnel of the People’s Liberation Army.

Present to bid farewell to His Majesty were Qiu Shaofang, Ambassador of Honour, as Representative of the Government of the People’s Republic of China as well as senior government officials of the People’s Republic of China.

Also present was Datin Paduka Magdalene Teo Chee Siong, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the People’s Republic of China.

Accompanying His Majesty 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 (12 November 2014)