Sultan sees great leap forward in Brunei-China ties

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has underscored the strong and growing economic and cultural ties between the Sultanate and China and the deepening Asean-China relations while pitching for renewed efforts to attract more Chinese companies to invest in the export-oriented and manufacturing sectors in the country.

In an interview with Xinhuanet two days before Beijing hosts the 22nd Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting, His Majesty revealed how important China is to Asean’s growth and vice-versa.

His Majesty also expressed high hopes for Sino-Brunei partnership to reach greater heights.

“Our bilateral partnership has been progressing well especially now that we have raised it to the level of a Strategic Cooperative Relationship following my visit last year,” His Majesty said. “I think the frequent exchanges between both sides have helped very much, with the signing of a number of MoUs as well, in a number of sectors including economics, energy, infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries, defence and education. So I hope this will continue in order to strengthen this relationship further.”

With trade volume between China and Brunei reaching US$1.8 billion last year, reflecting high-rising Chinese investment in Brunei in various sectors including infrastructure, fisheries and agriculture, His Majesty said Brunei’s strategic location would augur well for Chinese investments in the country.

“We appreciate very much the interest of Chinese companies to invest in Brunei. Our strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia and along the East-West maritime trade route makes us easily accessible to neighbouring economies and markets,” His Majesty said.

“Moreover, we have made efforts to enhance the business environment in Brunei to make it more favourable for investors, such as providing transparency and predictability.

“As we continue with our economic diversification from the oil and gas sector, we are looking into getting more investors to come in to invest in the export-oriented manufacturing and services sector such as halal food processing, petrochemicals, information and communications technology and high-tech industries, as well as air and sea logistics, aviation and oilfield services. In addition to this, potential investors can leverage off our FTAs with Asean and Asean dialogue partners.”

On a different note, His Majesty said maritime linkages are important to both Brunei and China.

“China’s initiative on the Maritime Silk Road fits in well with initiatives on connectivity that we are also undertaking in Asean and in Apec. As a dialogue partner in Asean, China has been helping us implement the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity. And as I have mentioned earlier, we are working towards launching this Apec Blueprint on Connectivity.

“All this will certainly expand our economic relations and people-to-people linkages, regionally and complements our cooperation bilaterally,” His Majesty added.

According to the monarch, China’s rise as an economic engine of growth has been remarkable and has contributed tremendously to global and regional development. “At the same time, I believe that it has played an important role in the maintenance of international peace and security by advocating peaceful and collective growth. This is a win-win partnership as it contributes to our mutual growth and prosperity in the region and the world at large,” said His Majesty.

Asked what His Majesty would expect from the summit, the monarch said, “In terms of China’s priorities for this year, we are supportive of China’s proposals on regional economic integration, in particular the idea to explore the development of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

“Currently, many of our economies have signed a number of bilateral and plurilateral free trade agreements.

“Some of the elements in these existing agreements can form the basis of a possible FTAAP in the future.

“On the APEC Blueprint on Connectivity, it is a long-term process, but we see this as something very valuable for our businesses to connect, not just in the physical sense with proper infrastructure but also policy-reforms to help our businesses grow and expand.

“Another important element in this blueprint is the potential for our people to know and appreciate one another through exchanges like tourism and education. So we are happy to support this.”

On Asean-China cooperation over the years, His Majesty said, Asean has enjoyed strong economic ties with China.

“This is demonstrated by the increasing volume of our bilateral trade and FDI. We are exploring a number of areas to enhance our economic integration efforts particularly through connectivity, trade and investment, such as upgrading the Asean-China FTA, and we are therefore supportive of initiatives by China to finance infrastructure projects in Brunei Darussalam.

“I am confident that this will create more opportunities for both sides especially for our businessmen and women,” said His Majesty.

His Majesty concluded the interview by reiterating the need for peace and security to ensure economic prosperity in the region.

“Brunei’s economy has been progressing at a steady pace and our determination to move forward towards comprehensive and sustainable development remains strong.

“We are continuing to work towards diversifying the economy by maximising the value of our domestic resources and developing our human resources.

“All this has been feasible because of regional peace and security and we appreciate very much the contribution of global partners including China,” said the ruler. - Borneo Bulletin (8 November 2014)