A total of 119 companies from Brunei – the country’s largest delegation to date – will be on showcase at the 14th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China from September 12 to 15 as the Sultanate takes on the mantle as the expo’s Country of Honour.
The size of this year’s delegation – the majority who touched down in Nanning yesterday – marks a more than eightfold increase from last year, representing a milestone in Brunei’s participation in CAEXPO since its inception 14 years ago.
The Sultanate was the first country to receive the distinction of Country of Honour as part of an annual rotation of ASEAN countries based on alphabetical order.
CAEXPO, which will take place at the Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Centre, operates against the backdrop of increased interest and efforts for economic cooperation and trade facilitation within the region.
This most notably includes the China ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) – which covers 1.85 billion consumers with combined Gross Domestic Product of USD 2.5 trillion. Through CAFTA, businesses can gain access to new markets without tariffs and trade barriers – which effectively positions CAEXPO as one of the definitive regional platforms for business opportunities to be explored.
Food and beverage companies make up 48 out of the 119 companies participating from Brunei, followed by 28 from various service industries, 15 in fashion and handicrafts, 11 in healthcare and cosmetics, eight in manufacturing, seven in education and two producing household products. More than half of these companies are taking part in CAEXPO for the first time.
This includes the founder of Kiulap based bakery and cafe Sweet as Sara who shared yesterday at the Brunei International Airport that she is looking to test the waters in China with her frozen Pistachio Ondeh Ondeh cake.
“I think it is important for us (Brunei companies) to go abroad and seek out what the potential opportunities are,” said Sarinahayati Hj Mohd Taib, who is looking to gain feedback from a Chinese and ASEAN audience, and hopefully garner interest for supply or expansion.
Likewise, purveyors of wild Brunei honey Madu Maanggaris are eager to take the opportunity to introduce their product to the Chinese market – whose consumer spending power continues to grow annually.
“We have brought some 200 bottles of the rarest honey from Brunei, which is wild and occurs naturally in our jungles,” said Madu Maanggaris’ founder Firdaus Sapli. “We target to sell out these (bottles), and from there, hopefully garner interest that can lead to some business matching. We want our wild honey to be exported abroad.”
Brunei’s participation as the Country of Honour focuses on three areas; the company exposition at the Commodity Pavilion, the City of Charm showcase where the 11 participating countries select a city of their own to be promoted, and the China-ASEAN Business & Investment Summit (CABIS). This year’s CAEXPO carries the theme “Co-building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Promoting Regional Economic Integration through Tourism.”
Brunei’s delegation of companies were also hosted for a dinner at the Wanyi Hotel yesterday by Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, the Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II. Also attending were Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi Haji Mohd Yussof and the Deputy Minister of Finance Dato Seri Paduka Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, as well as other government officials.
Aside from offering an opportunity to showcase Brunei as a tourist destination as well its products and services, CAEXPO has also provided a platform for large-scale foreign investment between Brunei and China. This includes the establishment of the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor (BGEC) – an agreement signed in 2014 that establishes a strategic supply chain link between Brunei and Guangxi, that covers investments into manufacturing and export from both countries, especially those focusing on the halal market, as well as upgrading logistics.