With a relatively free and open trading regime, as well as a small but highly educated workforce, Brunei sees engagement on FTAs as an important step in ensuring that its people, goods, services and investments will have continued access to wider markets around the world. At the same time, this helps facilitate the flow of foreign direct investments (FDIs) into the country. The country has undertaken a number of projects to further diversify its economy.
The RCEP is an FTA involving all 10 Asean Member States and the six Asean-FTA partners of Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand. This totals to a population of over three billion people who contribute to around a third of the world’s GDP.
The RCEP is envisioned to be a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement, that aims to advance economic cooperation, while broadening and deepening integration in the region, which builds upon existing economic linkages.
Another organisation where Brunei is represented is the TPP. TPP partner countries share a common vision to establish a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalises trade and investment, in addition to addressing new and traditional trade issues, and 21st Century challenges.
Upon completion, the TPP will further enhance trade and investment among the partner countries; promote innovation, economic growth and development; and support the creation and retention of jobs. It involves 10 other countries – Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Despite the withdrawal of the United States, the biggest economy in the original framework, Japan, managed to keep the TPP alive.
The newest version of TPP, agreed on in November 2017 in Vietnam, revised the original pact to allow it to come into force 60 days after at least six out of the 11 signatories completed domestic procedures.
Most of the provisions of the original TPP will remain, with the exception of 20 items. It will remove or lower tariffs on industrial and agricultural goods, and also introduce a set of unified international trade and investment rules.
Brunei’s participation in the TPP is pertinent, given that it still continues to import almost all of its needs to meet domestic consumption; and even more so, as it aims to encourage greater FDI inflows to strengthen and diversify the country’s economy.
Brunei will particularly benefit through the creation of a more robust trade and investment regulatory framework domestically, as it affirms its commitment to ensure the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights; the maintenance of high standards and protection of labour and environment; and the establishment of fairer competition through the prohibition of anti-competitive business conduct for all businesses, including state-owned enterprises.
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