OBG talks to Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II

Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II

Interview: Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng

What opportunities does the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 create for the country?

PEHIN DATO LIM JOCK SENG: As the country with the smallest population in ASEAN, we support the realisation of a prosperous, economically integrated region. Hence, we see the work of the AEC as an important opportunity for our businesspeople and investors to tap into a market with over 600m people, the third largest in the world. Furthermore, over the last few years, ASEAN has consistently achieved robust economic growth and has a combined GDP of nearly $3trn, effectively making it the world’s eighth-largest economy. We have to acknowledge that realising the AEC is an ongoing process, and we are currently engaged in discussions on the Post-2015 AEC Vision. The year 2015 will not be the end date for our economic integration process and should instead be seen as a significant milestone in working towards the free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital.

So far, almost all of our goods within ASEAN are tariff free, and we are working towards addressing non-tariff barriers, which will expedite the movement of goods across borders and reduce transaction cost. In terms of services, we are on the verge of completing the ninth package of commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, from which investors can expect higher commitments, for example, through the easing of foreign equity limits in specific sectors. For investment, the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement went into force in 2012 and accords greater investment protection within ASEAN, as well as transparency for all member states.

What are the ministry’s goals for further Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cooperation?

PEHIN DATO LIM: Brunei Darussalam assumed chairmanship of the BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting in 2014, which was an opportune time to take stock of our 20 years of cooperation. There has been much collaboration on the four strategic pillars of BIMP-EAGA, namely, connectivity, food security, tourism and environment. However, much remains to be done, particularly in the area of connectivity. This is why we will be hosting a Transport Ministers Meeting in November 2014 to look into areas where connectivity can be enhanced.

We do recognise the importance of full participation by all stakeholders, particularly the private sector. To date, such engagement is encouraging and we are making efforts to further enhance relations. We will also organise a dialogue session with the private sector during the ministerial meeting to exchange thoughts and ideas on how to move things forward. Ultimately, the participation of the private sector is the engine of growth for the development of BIMP-EAGA.

How is the ministry enhancing international relations to attract foreign investment?

PEHIN DATO LIM: One of the objectives of the ministry is to advance the Sultanate’s national interests through foreign relations. We are working toward strengthening ties with other countries through high-level visits. At the same time, we must also enhance our diplomatic presence in key regions, as we have done in Turkey, where we recently opened an embassy.

In addition, we are actively engaged in expanding economic links through trade agreements. There are eight free trade agreements (FTAs) in force, involving over 16 countries. We are also in the midst of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will potentially include four new FTA partners for Brunei Darussalam among the 12 participating countries. Apart from that, we are continuing to strengthen our international profile in regional and international forums, such as ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the World Trade Organisation, among various others. We see all of these forums as important platforms to share our experiences and learn best practices to attract more investors while enhancing our own investment strategies.

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The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2014

Trade & Investment chapter from The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2014

Cover of The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2014

The Report

This article is from the Trade & Investment chapter of The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2014. Explore other chapters from this report.

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