Investors from China were the latest delegation on an investment mission to Brunei Darussalam at the beginning of this week looking for potential opportunities in various sectors. Fisheries, agribusiness, livestock, machinery and equipment, export marketing and logistics were among the markets China expressed a serious interest in.
Aquaculture is one of the sectors targeted by SultanYang Di-Pertuan for potential growth, particularly increasing the production of prawn farming for the export market. According to the Fisheries Department, the aquaculture industry is expected to generate a consistent revenue of BN$200m ($130m) per year until 2023, creating opportunities in seafood processing as well as deep-sea fishing.
China and Brunei have developed a strong business and economic relationship over the past 16 years since they established diplomatic relations in 1991. China is Brunei Darussalam's 10th largest trading partner with two-way trade reaching $325m in 2006. Leaders of both countries have committed to achieving $1bn in bilateral trade before 2010. Brunei's key export to China is mineral fuel, while Brunei benefits from importing predominantly manufactured goods, appliances, transport equipment and machinery.
The ministry has highlighted Brunei's competitive advantages over neighbouring countries in a bid to promote the dynamic economy of the sultanate. Brunei's flexible policies and regulations, existing facilities and incentives and a highly educated workforce are some of the key attributes stressed by the ministry. The Brunei Industrial Development Authority has ensured all major industrial sites attractive to investors are located near the country's main transport networks to facilitate business. In addition, foreign investors are exempt from paying personal income, sales, payroll and export taxes.
International Chamber of Commerce Director Ahmad Isa told OBG, "Many big companies do not necessarily provide a lot of employment, perhaps not directly. They can however, create jobs indirectly through the supporting industries such as suppliers, distributors and services. Expatriates can generate business through expertise exchange and in real estate, for example, because they need somewhere to live."
China has revealed a number of key areas where the two countries could forge closer trade relations. Yu Ding Chen, deputy director general at the Department of Commerce in China's Yunnan Province who led the delegation, acknowledged Brunei's drive to establish a thriving shipping industry, "In my view, there are areas that have potential for development in the future. Even though Brunei is not a big country, it has very nice conditions for shipping. Now Asia is developing fast and with the growing demand for shipping, Brunei can take advantage of this."
The interest expressed by the Chinese in the shipping industry comes as the Brunei Economic Development Board is embarking on one of its key projects to expand the port at Pulau Muara Besar.
China also suggested Brunei could benefit from skilled manpower to complement Brunei's small population. Yunnan Province has a ready supply of skilled labour to drive the construction industry and has companies with substantial experience in communication and technology. The government would like to see increased training in areas of information technology, banking and finance and business development and management. China is in a position to help Brunei in setting up professional training bases within various established enterprises in Brunei to promote the transfer of skills and knowledge, particularly within the IT sector.
Another area of co-operation is within the tourism industry. Brunei is hoping to attract more tourists from China ahead of the 'Visit Brunei Year' in 2009. Royal Brunei Airlines has acknowleged the potential of this market and may consider adding new routes to China in the near future.
Senior Vice President of Royal Brunei Airlines, Sheikh Rashid told OBG, "We're looking at markets with commercial viability and we work closely with the Brunei Tourism Board. We see that North Asia has huge potential."
Other areas of co-operation between the two countries were identified as contracted projects, labour exchanges, specialised industrial activities and international expositions.