Brunei, China eye trade boost
By Alex How in Nanning

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam attended the 3rd China-Asean Business and Investment Summit, which was officially opened yesterday in Nanning, the capital of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

His Majesty also held bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Lu Bing, Governor of Guangxi, Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont (including the prime minister's planned visit to Brunei) and Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was present during the bilateral meetings.

His Majesty in response to Wen's suggestions of further strengthening high-level visits, promote trade, cultural and educational exchanges and foreign direct investment, said Brunei is willing to keep in touch with China on the issues.

His Majesty also expressed his hope to maintain high-level exchanges with China, and cement bilateral trade and agricultural cooperation.

Premier Wen later suggested both sides to further strengthen high-level visits and welcomed His Majesty to visit China again. His Majesty also extended an invitation for the premier to visit the Sultanate.

Concerning the South China Sea issue, Wen said China always proposes to put aside the disputes and engage in joint exploitation, which is in the practical and long-term interests of both countries.

His Majesty left Nanning yesterday evening along with HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. Present at the airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were Mu Hong, Vice Governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Ms Yang Yanyi, China's Ambassador to Brunei, Ambassador of Brunei to China Awg Haji Abdul Hamid Haji Abdul Jalil and other officials from both the sides.

Earlier, during the opening of the 3rd China-Asean Business and Investment Summit, Premier Wen made a package of proposals aimed at deepening bilateral economic exchanges, expanding trade of high-value-added products, and boosting two-way investment in his welcoming speech.

"China has a trade deficit with Asean. But we are still committed to further opening of the markets and increasing imports from Asean," he said.

China will honour its commitment made last year in providing preferential loans of US$5 billion to help Chinese enterprises set up joint ventures in Asean nations, he said.

China also welcomes the Asean nations to increase their investment in China and participate actively in China's economic development, he added.

Wen said the investment projects collaborated by the two sides could be carried out in diversified forms such as project contracting, equity holdings, and technological cooperation.

"China will encourage Chinese companies to transfer applicable technologies to Asean," he said.

Wen also urged to speed up "negotiation on trade in services and investment" for the establishment of the China-Asean free trade area.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President of the Philippines, said in her opening remarks that trade with China could reduce Asean's dependency on Western markets such as the United States and the European Union.

"Each Asean member country can boast of its success story with regards to their business with China," said Arroyo, who is also holding the rotating presidency of Asean this year.

At Monday's Commemorative Summit marking the 15th anniversary of China-Asean dialogue relations, the two sides reaffirmed their determination to establish a free trade area by 2010. - Borneo Bulletin (1st Nov 2006)