Brunei Update: Brunei Committed to Multilateral Trade

Brunei Update | January 30, 2017
Authors: Kim Yaeger and Artha Sirait
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Brunei Committed to Multilateral Trade

On January 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) issued a statement that Brunei remains committed in pursuing its endeavors of enhancing multilateral trade rules and will continue to engage in free and open trade for the benefit of all parties. The statement is a response to President Donald J. Trump’s signing of an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on January 23. Brunei is one of the four founding partners of the TPP along with Chile, New Zealand and Singapore back in 2005. The TPP in its latest form, with the United States and 10 other pacific rim nations, would have offered Brunei with a lot to gain. It would have opened the playing field to investors while introducing progressive standards such as increased competition, improvement of labor rights and environmental protections. Though the United States is no longer a party to the TPP, Brunei has expressed its commitment to continue on its regional initiatives path such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the ASEAN Economic Community, to name a few.

Key points of MOFAT’s statement on the TPP are that Brunei:

  1. remains committed in pursuing free and open trade within the context of multilateral trade rules;
  2. will continue to be a part of ongoing regional initiatives as well as bilaterally;
  3. views that the pursuit of these initiatives are complementary to Brunei’s effort in strengthening its regulatory environment and business regime to be in line with international standards;
  4. looks forward to engage with all TPP partners on next steps; and
  5. views the United States as an important partner and will continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the United States.

In addition to regional cooperation, Brunei is also interested in pursuing relevant bilateral initiatives. Brunei continues to see the United States as an important partner and will continue to build a relationship between both countries, including promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Brunei. Previously in late 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office had previously stated that the country is actively seeking foreign direct investment projects in several priority areas:

  • Halal industry, such as Brunei’s cooperation with China to develop, market and promote high quality halal food products;
  • Biotechnology and technology, such as the launch of Brunei’s first commercial bioproduction facility in October 2016;
  • Food and agriculture, such as the fact that Brunei has cultivated premium halal brand sought after in many predominantly Muslin countries due to its standards of livestock slaughter.

Brunei Aims for Stock Exchange Launch in 2017

In December 2016, the Monetary Authority of Brunei (Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam – AMBD) prepared the initial draft of rules for the planned launching of the Brunei Darussalam Stock Exchange. The plan is a part of the government’s effort to diversify Brunei’s economy beyond oil and to catch up to some of the more mature capital markets in neighboring ASEAN countries.  The launch of a stock exchange is expected to boost Brunei’s presence in ongoing ASEAN regional capital markets development and financial sector integration initiatives.  Brunei’s government-linked companies (GLC’s) will need to become more competitive in order to compete in an integrated ASEAN. The Brunei Darussalam Stock Exchange will have a core objective of serving the needs of Brunei’s Muslim investors, focusing on sharia-compliant securities, equities and Islamic bonds (sukuk). Previously in April 2016, Brunei announced several sukuk offerings to expand the scope of its financial sector. Brunei has issued at least 130 sukuk in short-term offerings since 2006. Historically, the financial industry has played a rather small role in the oil-dominated economy of Brunei. With the goal of diversification, the government of Brunei intends for capital markets development to help strengthen the growth of industries such as tourism, halal products and manufacturing.

Labor Department Announced New Policy to Employ Foreign Workers

The Labor Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs has introduced the second phase of foreign workers’ license in December 2016. The first phase started in September 2016, introducing a shortened application process from 41 business days to nine, and a shortened processing period from 12 business days to seven business days. The policy aims to provide effective and efficient services to the public and to assist the needs of employers. Businesses seeking to employ foreign workers need to meet certain requirements including registering and advertising vacancies. Despite allowing foreign workers to work in the country, Brunei observes a predetermined ratio of local to foreign workers that was agreed upon and certified by government agency stakeholders. Previously in May 2014, Brunei introduced policies to limit the recruitment of foreign workers in certain sectors in an effort to get private firms to employ more local workers. Please click here for the official procedure.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Oman, Brunei market regulators ink cooperation MoU,Oman
Can ASEAN Sidestep Trump's Trade Threats?
Ukraine regards Brunei as its gateway to ASEAN
President Duterte's state visits to China and Brunei enhance trade ties
Courting the little kingdom

National Affairs
Brunei remains committed to pursue multilateral trade
Brunei, 2nd least corrupt in Asean: Transparency International report
Brunei sees growth in international visitors, continues to enhance local tourism products
LegCo members urged to work for people’s welfare
Brunei aggressively making changes to tourism industry
Monarch Urge Nation to Be Cautious of Threats to Peace, Growing Cyber Danger
Ahmed Mansoor : Brunei on edge amid oil slump
The second phase of foreign workers license to be introduced

Market Development
Ministry hosts roadshow on import and export of products in KB
EIDPMO seeking local MSMEs to represent Brunei at PIHEC 2017
US companies see potential in Brunei

Banking
Banking milestone: BOCHK opens 1st branch in Brunei

Customs
Najib: Red tape at Brunei border to be resolved

Energy
Brunei agrees to make voluntary adjustment to crude oil production
Brunei Darussalam's energy sector on the rebound: Report

Financial Services
SCS launch fund FT in Brunei
Initial draft of rules ready for Brunei Stock Exchange
A win-win for Brunei, China

Food & Agriculture
Taiwanese fair brings Mandarin orange to Brunei
Ghanim’s role in Brunei Vision 2035

Health & Life Sciences
Halal Pharmaceuticals Market Dynamics, Forecast, Analysis and Supply Demand 2016-2026

ICT
Setting up foundations to develop Brunei’s ICT
New global cable to boost Brunei ICT development
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Oman, Brunei market regulators ink cooperation MoU,Oman Muscat Daily News 23rd Jan 2017
H.E. Abdullah al Salmi, executive president of the Capital Market Authority, and Yusof Haji Abd Rehman, managing director of the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam, signed a memorandum of understanding on January 23 for the exchange of information and mutual cooperation. The agreement was concluded on the sidelines of meetings between the two regulatory bodies which covered a number of topics relating to the two countries and the opportunities for cooperation to boost the exchange of information and for provision of financing instruments and products in a safe and fair investment environment, a CMA statement said.

Can ASEAN Sidestep Trump's Trade Threats? Knowledge@Wharton 17th Jan 2017
Southeast Asia is awaiting the inauguration of Donald Trump with growing trepidation. For the 10 nations and 625 million people that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a lot is riding on the content and direction of his administration’s trade and foreign policy. As the world’s fourth-largest exporting region, where trade with China is of paramount importance, ASEAN is hopeful that Trump’s actions will bear no resemblance to the rhetoric of his election campaign. “All of ASEAN is nervous about what Trump’s going to do,” says Mark Beeson, a professor of international politics at the University of Western Australia. What’s making ASEAN nervous? China and trade, or to be precise, the president-elect’s tweets and pronouncements on those subjects thus far.

Ukraine regards Brunei as its gateway to ASEAN Borneo Bulletin Online 15th Jan 2017
UKRAINE looks forward to further bolster economic, investment and people-to-people cooperation with Brunei Darussalam as discussions between the two countries continue to gain momentum in a number of potential areas, its visiting Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin said yesterday. In an exclusive interview, Pavlo, who was on a two-day visit to the Sultanate, highlighted the need to steer forward various prospective spheres of cooperation, particularly in economic and people-to-people exchanges. “It is gaining momentum and we have extensive potential here… we have explored many good ideas and now we need to deliver and realise them,” he said.

President Duterte's state visits to China and Brunei enhance trade ties Dateline Philippines 3rd Jan 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, October 21 said his recent State Visits to Brunei Darussalam and the People’s Republic of China have strengthened the Philippines’ economic and diplomatic ties with both countries and have opened doors for more meaningful engagements as they discussed ways to deepen their bilateral relations and explored other areas of undertakings . In his arrival message at the Davao International Airport upon returning from his trips to Brunei Darussalam and People’s Republic of China, the President said a clear focus was directed more on economic cooperation and partnership to benefit the people of the Philippines. 

Courting the little kingdom Policy Forum 15th Dec 2016
The sultanate of Brunei may be small, but there are big, mutual benefits, from close bilateral relations with China, Mustafa Izzuddin writes. On 23 April 2016, China announced that a four-point consensus had been reached with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on how to address the South China Sea dispute. Laos and Cambodia being parties to the consensus came as no surprise as both countries are perceived to exist within China’s sphere of influence. But the inclusion of Brunei raised some eyebrows as it was not just a Muslim-majority country, but also a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, unlike the other two. Why then was Brunei courted by China, culminating in the country acceding to the four-point consensus? Principally, China wanted to diversify its support base in anticipation of the arbitral tribunal’s verdict, which, as expected, ruled in favour of the Philippines. 

National Affairs

Brunei remains committed to pursue multilateral trade Borneo Bulletin Online 27th Jan 2017
Brunei Darussalam remains committed in pursuing its endeavours of enhancing multilateral trade rules and will continue to engage in free and open trade for the benefit of all parties, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MoFAT) said yesterday. The statement comes following news of United States of America (US) President Donald J Trump’s signing of an executive order on Monday for the US to formally back-out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while indicating his preference to negotiate trade deals on a bilateral basis.

Brunei, 2nd least corrupt in Asean: Transparency International report Borneo Bulletin Online 26th Jan 2017
Brunei Darussalam has been ranked the 41st most honest nation by Transparency International, which conducts an annual survey analysing corruption levels worldwide. The Sultanate was the second least corrupt nation in the Asean region, and the eighth best performer in Asia, with a score of 58. Brunei placed 41st globally in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which was published yesterday.

Brunei sees growth in international visitors, continues to enhance local tourism products Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Jan 2017
From January to September 2016, there were a total of 3,119,405 international visitors’ arrival to Brunei Darussalam. The breakdown of the figure shows 2,931,327 visitors by border, 163,023 visitors by air and 25,055 by sea/cruise. To further spur growth, Brunei Darussalam is continuously strengthening and enhancing its local tourism products to further increase visitors’ arrival into the country.

LegCo members urged to work for people’s welfare Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Jan 2017
The new members appointed to the Legislative Council (LegCo) as District Representatives have an important role, duty and responsibility in bringing forward proposals that are significant and strategic for the benefit of the people of Brunei Darussalam while also helping the government with national development efforts.

Brunei aggressively making changes to tourism industry Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Jan 2017
Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, in a forum said that in the last 18 months, the ministry has achieved a number of accomplishments and have been aggressively making changes to the country’s tourism industry.

Monarch Urge Nation to Be Cautious of Threats to Peace, Growing Cyber Danger BruDirect 3rd Jan 2017
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolklah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni AI-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam urged the nation to be wary of threats against peace and harmony as well as threats coming from the cyberworld. In a titah delivered on the eve of New Year 2017, His Majesty said, "We are leaving 2016 with a thousand memories of enjoying peace and harmony in this fortunate nation... We are thankful and pray to Allah the Almighty for such a blessing to be enjoyed in 2017. Peace is paramount without which no development is possible. We should also uphold strong religious values, abide by the law, live in harmony and stay united. "But we should bear in mind that elements that are against peace and harmony will always try to create chaos. Hence, we should be cautious with these elements and it is a big responsibility for all parties, especially those who deal with security affairs," the monarch said. "Efforts should also be undertaken to face cyber-threats, especially the danger posed by social media, by strengthening strategic partnership with international cyber organisations," His Majesty added. 

Ahmed Mansoor : Brunei on edge amid oil slump Nikkei Asian Review 3rd Jan 2017
Once known for its abundant oil wealth and the extravagant lives of its royal family, Brunei is a country of little political consequence to outsiders. It gained world attention however in 2014 when the government implemented a new Islamic penal code based on Sharia, introducing death by stoning, the severing of limbs and flogging for offenses such as adultery, theft, and sodomy as potential criminal penalties. Suddenly the tiny Malay sultanate in Borneo was on the receiving end of an international backlash from Western governments and human rights groups. U.S. Congressmen threatened to exclude Brunei from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, Hollywood stars and media moguls like Ellen DeGeneres and Richard Branson called for a worldwide boycott of luxury hotels owned by the Dorchester Group, a property company owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. To say the Brunei government did not anticipate, or was unprepared to deal with the negative global reaction is a gross understatement. Unable to control international media, it instead turned to stifling local reporting on Sharia. 

The second phase of foreign workers license to be introduced BorneoPost Online 28th Dec 2016
The Second Phase of Foreign Workers License (LPA) under The Labour Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs will start January 1, 2017. This phase will focus on application for getting additional licence to bring in foreign workers, Brudirect reported. Supporting the nation’s hope to create a pro-business environment and a more organised and safer management of foreign workers in the country for the purpose of safeguarding national interest, the First Phase of the LPA which was introduced in October 1, 2016 only covered application for new licenses . The new system incorporates the previous separate processes of acquiring foreign workers licence (labour quota) and obtaining work pass recommendation (BUR500/555) into one. Its aim is to provide efficient and high-quality services to the public and to ease employers in dealing with the procedures at the Labour Department. 

Market Development

Ministry hosts roadshow on import and export of products in KB Borneo Bulletin 18th Jan 2017
A public awareness roadshow on the import and export of agricultural, fishery and forestry products was hosted by the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) at the Conference Hall located along Jalan Pretty, Kuala Belait on the morning of January 17. The MPRT recently introduced a new online system to help accelerate the process of acquiring an import or export permit called the ‘Brunei Darussalam National Single Window’ (BDNSW). The aim of the roadshow was to educate the public on the procedures, both old and new, on the importation and exportation of agriculture, fishing and forestry products and answering any question regarding said procedures. Present for the roadshow were not only the entrepreneurs from the agriculture, fishery and forestry departments, but also staff from the MPRT in Kuala Belait, government officers, head of counties and head of villages and members of the association of the Village Consultative Council (MPK) in the Belait District.

EIDPMO seeking local MSMEs to represent Brunei at PIHEC 2017 Borneo Bulletin Online 14th Jan 2017
The Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO) announced yesterday that it is seeking local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to represent Brunei Darussalam at the Penang International Halal Expo and Conference (PIHEC) 2017 at the Spice Arena in the state of Penang in Malaysia from February 24-26. In a press release, it was highlighted that PIHEC will provide an ideal platform for Brunei’s local MSMEs and open up opportunities for them to engage with exhibitors and trade clients from across Southeast Asia, West Asia and Europe to promote and market their businesses.

US companies see potential in Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 11th Jan 2017
The United States Embassy in Brunei Darussalam is committed to supporting American companies entering the Brunei market, while also seeking out more opportunities for mutual product exports and business partnerships, said Craig Allen, the US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam. Allen made the remarks in his speech at the opening of Ashley Furniture’s first store in the Sultanate yesterday, during which he also said that the US Embassy will continue to support the promotion of economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

Banking

Banking milestone: BOCHK opens 1st branch in Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Dec 2016
The first Chinese bank to establish its footprint in Brunei Darussalam, Bank of China (Hong Kong), or BOCHK, officially opened its branch in the Sultanate yesterday which is expected to further fuel the growth of the local financial market. The guest of honour who graced the prestigious opening ceremony at The Empire Hotel & Country Club was Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, Minister of Home Affairs. Also in attendance were Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mohamad Roselan bin Haji Mohamad Daud, Acting Minister of Finance cum Acting Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office; Yusof bin Haji Abdul Rahman, Managing Director of Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD), Yang Jian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam; Wang Xiao Lin, General Manager of BOCHK Brunei branch; officials from various government agencies and prominent members of the local Chinese community. Highlighting the importance of setting up a branch of BOCHK in Brunei, Xu Luo De, Executive Vice-President of Bank of China (BOC), said, “Today’s establishment of our Brunei branch is a meaningful milestone as it is a strategic move in line with the development of the bilateral relationship between the two countries (China and Brunei). 

Customs

Najib: Red tape at Brunei border to be resolved The Star 18th Dec 2016
Bureaucratic red tape involving land journeys between Malaysia and Brunei will be resolved soon, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic). He said the Brunei government had in principle agreed to resolve the issue of bureaucracy along the common border with Malaysia and had set up a technical committee for the purpose.

Energy

Brunei agrees to make voluntary adjustment to crude oil production Borneo Bulletin Online 7th Jan 2017
Brunei Darussalam has agreed to adjust the country’s crude oil production for the next six months, the Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO) said in a statement yesterday. According to the EIDPMO, Brunei, together with 10 other non-OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) countries, took part in the OPEC/non-OPEC Declaration of Cooperation made in Vienna, Austria on December 10, 2016.

Brunei Darussalam's energy sector on the rebound: Report Qatar Tribune 22nd Jan 2017
A rising tide of new investments are expected to underpin growth in Brunei Darussalam's recovering energy industry, against a backdrop of increasing oil and gas output, according to the Oxford Business Group. Several contracts have been awarded for Brunei Darussalam's offshore fields which could deliver 3.5bn barrels of oil by 2035 offering opportunities for operators throughout the energy value chain. New offshore discoveries in the South China Sea, first announced by the Ministry of Energy in 2014, are expected to prolong Brunei Darussalam's hydrocarbons production past the lifespan of its maturing fields. In a bid to develop these fields, Brunei Darussalam's oil and gas industry has opened tenders valued at more than BN$3bn ($2.2bn) since the beginning of the year, according to data issued by the government in June. Output from Brunei Darussalam's oil and gas segments rose strongly in the first quarter of the year, fuelling the 3.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) GDP growth registered for the period, according to data issued by the Department of Economic Planning and Development at the end of June.

Financial Services

SCS launch fund FT in Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Jan 2017
Standard Chartered Securities (SCS) recently added Franklin Templeton as one of their latest fund offering and on the night of January 19, officially launched the fund for its clients at V-Plaza Hotel, Kuala Belait. SCS opened their doors in August of 2016 where they provide investment products from various currencies across different geographies and sectors for potential customers interested in the investment market. Currently, SCS offers more than 100 different investment funds for their clients.

Initial draft of rules ready for Brunei Stock Exchange Borneo Bulletin Online 31st Dec 2016
The Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) has prepared the initial draft of rules for the Brunei Stock Exchange, completing the system functionality and technical requirements of the bourse. Relevant training programmes to provide awareness on the stock exchange have also been readied, the financial regulator said in its policy statement for the second half of 2016 revealed on December 28. “AMBD is a member of the Steering Committee, the Secretariat and Working Group for the establishment of the Brunei Darussalam Stock Exchange. The Working Group consists of three sub Working Groups, namely the Working Group for Rules and Regulations (WGRR), the Working Group for Operations and Infrastructure (WGOI), and the Working Group for Promotion and Education (WGPE),” the statutory body which acts as the central bank of the country said. 

A win-win for Brunei, China Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Dec 2016
Bank of China (Hong Kong) opening of its first branch in Brunei is a significant milestone, not only for the Chinese banking group but also the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole. It is signal that everything is perfect with Brunei’s economy and global financial institutions have high hopes on the Sultanate’s diversification drive.

Food & Agriculture

Taiwanese fair brings Mandarin orange to Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 16th Jan 2017
Warisan Utama Jaya Emporium & Supermarket in Jalan Muara yesterday hosted the official launch of an agricultural fair with quality produce from Taichung City, Taiwan, including the ever-popular premium Pomkan (Mandarin orange). Presiding over the launch were Jason Wan, a representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Brunei Darussalam; Lim Koh Phay, the chairman of the First Emporium Group; Wang Jiun Shong, the director of the Agriculture Bureau in Taichung City Government; and the senior management of the First Emporium & Supermarket chain.

Ghanim’s role in Brunei Vision 2035 Borneo Bulletin Online 9th Jan 2017
Last year saw the Ghanim International Corporation making great strides forward towards putting bruneihalalfoods products on the global map. Ghanim International Corporation is a state-owned enterprise in Brunei Darussalam that develops, markets and promotes high-quality Halal food products under the bruneihalalfoods brand with production bases and reliable suppliers across the world.

Health & Life Sciences

Halal Pharmaceuticals Market Dynamics, Forecast, Analysis and Supply Demand 2016-2026 Medgadget 19th Dec 2016
Drivers of the halal pharmaceuticals market include a growing Muslim population. Given that Muslims have been estimated to account for close to 25% of the global population in 2015—~1.6 billion people (PewResearch) – the annual growth rate of the Muslim population has been estimated to be ~1.6%, which is higher than the growth rate of the world population (1.1% per annum). Increasing awareness among Muslims regarding wellness and medicines is propagating mainly through increased education. This is another prime factor contributing to growth of the halal medicine market. Other socio-economic factors driving the need and uptake of halal medicines include rising purchasing power parity, increasing access to critical medicines in resource-constrained nations supported by public organizations such as World Health Organization, safety of consumption, assurance of product efficacy and hygienic processing among others. 

ICT

Setting up foundations to develop Brunei’s ICT Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Jan 2017
Marking another milestone in setting the pace for ICT education in the country, Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru) officially inked another Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB), one of the country’s leading institutions of higher learning, in a series of agreements that are setting the foundation for Brunei’s ICT development.

New global cable to boost Brunei ICT development Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Jan 2017
Aimed at augmenting Brunei’s efforts to become a regional communication hub and boosting its development in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), another international cable link has reached the country’s shore. The 51.795-kilometre submarine fibre optic cable linking Labuan island to Brunei Darussalam landed in Tungku.