His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday told regional business leaders that Brunei represents an “untapped platform” for trade that can secure greater access to strategic markets.
The monarch, speaking at the 14th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit at the Liyuan Grand Metropark Hotel in Nanning, China, said that foreign direct investment (FDI) is a key part of Brunei’s economic diversification strategy away from upstream oil and gas.
In making Brunei an attractive place for investment, the Sultanate has committed to free trade agreements, reformed its business ecosystem, and improved overall infrastructure.
“Underlying all these efforts is Brunei’s commitment to open and free trade,” said His Majesty in his titah and keynote speech at CABIS, which carries the theme Deepening China-Brunei Economic and Trade Cooperation for Mutual Development.
“This open trade policy underscored by our participation, in various free trade agreements, presents Brunei as an untapped platform in securing greater access to strategic markets. This rules based, trade agreements makes certain that our policies remains consistent, predictable and transparent, which should instil added confidence to any investors.”
His Majesty said that Brunei’s improvement in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report – where the Sultanate has earned the title of most improved economy for two consecutive years – represents the results of the country’s continuous efforts to cut down on bureaucratic red tape and create a more business friendly environment.
“On top of this, we have one of the lowest corporate tax systems in the region,” said His Majesty, who shared to the attendees that Brunei is prioritizing five clusters for diversification, which offer opportunities for foreign collaboration and investments.
These are halal industries, innovative technology, and creative industries, business services, tourism and downstream oil and gas.
His Majesty also chronicled the growing economic cooperation between Brunei and China, especially in FDI into Brunei, which include the multi billion refinery and petrochemical plant by Hengyi, as well as a shared economic corridor that carries new opportunities.
“We certainly welcome more investments from Chinese companies as Brunei seeks to further develop its economy, we believe there are many opportunities to forge a win-win partnership,” said His Majesty.
Brunei also shares close ties with Guangxi, with both signing an agreement for an economic corridor in 2014 that establishes a strategic supply chain link between that covers investments into manufacturing and export from both countries, especially those focusing on the halal market, as well as upgrading logistics.
“After the establishment of the Brunei Guangxi Economic Corridor, we have pursued collaboration in areas such as ports, fisheries, and clean energy technology,” said His Majesty. “I am therefore pleased that the newly developed Muara Port is now in operations, as this will boost our cooperation is logistics and connectivity. Brunei offers access to a rapidly growing global Muslim market, as we leverage our strengths, it is my hope to see this economic corridor be utilized as a gateway for targeting the ASEAN and global Muslim market.”
The monarch noted positively on the commencing of flights between Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, and Brunei, adding that tourism and people to people exchanges needed to be further strengthened and promoted.
After His Majesty delivered his titah, managerial representatives from the Bank of China (Hong Kong), Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co. Ltd., Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group Co. Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. had a round table discussion with the monarch, inquiring further about the Sultanate’s diversification efforts and opportunities for investment.
Special thanks to Information Department at the Prime Minister’s Office for providing pictures for this story.