Interview: John Baird

How can Bruneian and Canadian bilateral relations translate into political and economic cooperation?

JOHN BAIRD: Our relations with Brunei Darussalam are excellent and constructive, and we engage in regular highlevel discussions on issues of interest to both of our countries. We are partners in a variety of forums such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Commonwealth, as well as through dialogue within ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM). A key focus of our relationship is trade and investment. We enjoy a fruitful economic relationship, however, there is significant potential for growth. Continued engagement and the building of our relationship with Brunei Darussalam will allow us to identify new opportunities for mutual prosperity.

You noted the investment potential in Brunei Darussalam during your 2011 visit. What measures are being taken to make these opportunities a reality?

BAIRD: We already have a good trade relationship with Brunei Darussalam, and in 2011 bilateral trade totalled almost $12m. Canadian firms like the Royal Bank of Canada, Viva Pharmaceuticals, RIM, CAE, McCain, Kulczyk Oil and Side Effects Software are very active from an investment perspective, and we want to see more of these success stories in the region. Canada is playing an important role in helping to develop the agriculture industry, with Agriteam Consulting Canada signing a contract in 2012 to assist in the creation of a food development centre that will create new, innovative food products. Brunei Darussalam is a key partner for Canada and we will continue growing this relationship.

How will Canada’s acceptance in to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) strengthen its position for trade and investment in the region as a whole?

BAIRD: We have made our relations with Asian countries a priority. We have had 77 cabinet-level or prime ministerial visits to the Asia-Pacific in the past three years alone. In 2001, our governor-general made visits to Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Under the stewardship of my colleague Ed Fast, the minister of international trade, Canada is pursuing agreements with India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and we may add Thailand to the list. We have joined the TPP negotiations with 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This strategic partnership will open new markets and create new business opportunities, generating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. It will enhance trade in the Asia-Pacific region while providing greater economic opportunity for Canadian businesses. I am confident the TPP will set a high standard that the Doha Round has failed to achieve.

What are the main relationships Canada maintains to provide a clear trade path to Pacific markets?

BAIRD: The Asia-Pacific region is a priority for our government. That is why strengthening commercial ties with the region’s fast-growing economies is part of the Canadian government’s pro-trade plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Significant progress has recently been made that will help the ASEAN-Canada relationship reach its full potential. Over the past three years, we have created dedicated commercial positions for ASEAN at missions in ASEAN member states, to help identify business opportunities. Canada and ASEAN have adopted our very first commercial instrument, the Joint Statement on Trade and Investment – a huge step forward in our commercial relationship. As well as joining the TPP, Canada has signed a Foreign Investment promotion and protection agreement with China and is in negotiations towards free trade agreements with both Japan and India. Canada is also working to settle foreign investment protection agreements with Vietnam and Indonesia. Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor is positioning the country as path between Asia and North America, and offers access to streamlined logistics and distribution facilities that are secure, efficient and reliable routes for imports and exports.