The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) empowers Brunei Darussalam’s foreign policies and capacity, while also deepening its ties with other countries.
Through a whole-of-nation approach, which encourages collaboration between ministries and related agencies, MFA has been able to continue preserving and advancing the country’s interests. This includes ensuring the sovereignty of the monarch and the country, and preserving the national identity in terms of politics, culture and religion while encouraging regional and international peace, stability and prosperity.
This was shared by Minister of Foreign Affairs II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof at the 16th Legislative Council (LegCo) session in March 2020.
The MFA continues to practise principles that are in line with the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB), such as forging stronger ties with countries, ensuring equality in all nations and upholding its non-interference policy.
The minister said that such a positive foreign policy has been carried out by the Sultanate to maintain close relations with other nations while preserving the good image of the country.
It is made possible with the country’s bilateral and multilateral approaches of conducting and receiving state visits, attending international meetings and cooperating with regional and international organisations.
Such a commitment to foreign policy has enabled the country to acquire capability and expertise through its involvement in initiatives run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Commonwealth, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), while paving the way for more trade opportunities and investments not limited to the MFA but also other government agencies and the private sector.
The minister shared that through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its dialogue partners, funds have been set up for joint exercises aimed at enhancing understanding, capability and expertise between nations while allowing economic opportunities among its member states.
He added that it is crucial for Brunei to continuously strengthen its diplomatic relations and cooperation with other countries, especially in the midst of geopolitical uncertainties, geoeconomic instability, crude oil production disputes, trade wars, the pandemic of COVID-19, threats of climate change, and terrorism.
Brunei Darussalam assumes the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2021, taking the baton from 2020 ASEAN Chair Vietnam, who had unified ASEAN as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in accelerating the post-pandemic recovery, while also boosting preparedness and advancing the recovery for a better ASEAN.
Vietnam handed over the symbolical gavel following the conclusion of the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on November 15, 2020.
Brunei last held the ASEAN chairmanship in 2013 with the theme “Our people, our future together”. The country’s chairmanship this year will revolve around the theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’, as it hopes to advance regional recovery and community-building efforts.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a titah via video link at the 37th ASEAN Summit revealed that the year 2021’s focus reflects three priority areas Brunei plans to promote: caring for the people and each other’s well-being; preparing for future opportunities and challenges; and prospering together as a unified region.
Despite enjoying prosperity with a growing economy and improved connectivity, His Majesty said that financial crisis, natural disasters, energy shortages and climate change are still imminent. ASEAN must continue its solidarity and centrality to overcome the challenges to global activities brought about by COVID-19, said His Majesty.
“ASEAN’s strength is through its collective desire for peace, development and prosperity as enshrined in the 1967 Bangkok Declaration and the ASEAN Charter. The people always come first in advancing together as one ASEAN Community, guided by values and aspirations articulated decades ago,” His Majesty said.
His Majesty believes that the three fundamental areas Brunei hopes to promote as it assumes the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2021 will strengthen ASEAN’s solidarity and reinforce ASEAN centrality.
“Moreover, it will accelerate efforts to recover from the pandemic and realise the ambitions of an inclusive ASEAN community. To this end, the support and contributions of dialogue partners are important to help shape the regional outlook and ASEAN’s post-2025 Vision,” His Majesty added.
The Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of member states.
A member state assuming the Chairmanship shall chair the ASEAN Summit and related summits, the ASEAN Coordinating Council, the three ASEAN Community Councils, relevant ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies and senior officials, and the Committee of Permanent Representatives.
The host country shall chair high-ranking and ministerial meetings, promoting the bloc’s interests and prosperity, recommending initiatives and new plans, and ensuring timely response to emergencies.
The Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) is a cooperation initiative established in 1994 to spur development in remote and less developed areas in the four participating Southeast Asian countries.
The subregion covers the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and West Papua of Indonesia; the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and the island of Mindanao and the province of Palawan in the Philippines.
The BIMP-EAGA website notes, “Through BIMPEAGA, the four countries want to generate balanced and inclusive growth as well as contribute to regional economic integration in the ASEAN Economic Community. They want to boost trade, tourism, and investments by easing the movement of people, goods, and services across borders; making the best use of common infrastructure and natural resources; and taking the fullest advantage of economic complementation.”
The website also notes that BIMP-EAGA has grown over the last 25 years “thanks to strong ownership and commitment, as demonstrated by the financial, human and technical resources put in by the member governments”. In 2017, BIMP-EAGA’s combined gross domestic product reached USD287 billion, merchandise trade surged 21.5 per cent, and annual tourist arrivals grew 6.6 per cent.
BIMP-EAGA’s Vision 2025 is a development blueprint for 2017 to 2025, detailing strategies to narrow development gaps, sustainably manage natural resources and promote stronger connectivity. The vision puts focus on three main outcomes, namely: building a competitive and green manufacturing sector; creating a sustainable, competitive, and climate-resilient agriculture and fisheries industries; and transforming BIMP-EAGA into a sustainable, well-developed and connected multi-country tourism destination that benefits less developed areas.
During a webinar held in September 2020 on Halal trade and investment opportunities, among the points highlighted was that the robust connections on Halal between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam from the implementation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Halal Industry and Export Development and Promotion benefitted the two countries and BIMP-EAGA.
It was also shared that the private sector has initiatives in establishing production, distribution and trading hubs for Halal products and services in BIMP-EAGA. The Brunei Darussalam BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BDBEBC) has identified supply, manufacturing and consumer bases in the BIMPEAGA in its strategic platform which, when realised, would ensure the economic development of BIMPEAGA and turn it into a main Halal hub that would have a significant role in the global Halal market.
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