Sultan arrives in Sydney
By Sonia K in Sydney

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam arrived in Sydney, Australia yesterday evening to attend the 15th Apec Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM).

Today, His Majesty will join other leaders of Asean attending the Apec for a luncheon with the President of the United States of America, George W Bush. Later in the afternoon, His Majesty will be meeting the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard.

The two-day AELM, which starts Sept 8, will be chaired by Howard.

On Saturday, the leaders will attend a dialogue session with members of the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) followed by the first Retreat. Later in the evening, the leaders will be hosted to a dinner by the Australian premier.

On the second day, the leaders will attend the second Retreat and closing luncheon. Later, they will adopt the Leaders Declaration, Statement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Negotiations and the Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development.

The main focus of discussion during the two retreat sessions will be climate change and the stalled negotiations on WTO Doha Development Agenda. Other topics of discussion will include promoting regional economic integration, trade and investment in the Apec region, human security and the moratorium on Apec membership.

Meanwhile, the Apec Ministerial Meeting (AMM), which concluded yesterday, aims to promote prosperity through a commitment to trade and economic reform, enhance human security in the Asia-Pacific and ensure Apec is dynamic and responsive to developments in the Asia-Pacific.

These three main topics of discussions were released in a joint statement at the end of the two-day event.

Leading Brunei's delegation at the AMM was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awg Lim Jock Seng.

The two-day meeting was co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Alexander Downer, and Minister for Trade of Australia, Warren Truss.

Under the theme of "Strengthening our community, building a sustainable future", the ministers reviewed developments in the region, achievements they have made this year and the challenges facing the future.

According to the statement, the Asia-Pacific region remains the engine of world growth. Incomes are rising, poverty is declining, employment is growing, investment is increasing and trade is expanding.

"Growth in the past year has been solid and is expected to continue in 2008. However, to sustain this momentum, we need to address the challenges that face us in the area of global trade imbalances, protectionism, urbanisation, demographic changes, environment, energy, food safety, terrorism, crime, governance, women's empowerment, pandemics and 21st century skills. By facilitating economic growth, intensifying economic and technical cooperation, strengthening our integration and enhancing our sense of community, we will work actively in Apec to create greater prosperity in the region," the statement read.

Some of the topics discussed for promoting prosperity through a commitment to trade and economic reform were issues such as continuing support for the WTO and the multilateral trading system; regional economic integration; Regional Trade Agreements/Free Trade Agreements (RTAs/FTAs); Individual Action Plans (IAPs) and Collective Action Plans (CAPs); trade facilitation; Intellectual Property Rights and the digital economy; investment; anti-corruption and transparency; improving business environment and structural reforms, as well as Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) and capacity building.

Issues such as counter terrorism and secure trade, food and other product safety, emergency preparedness, health, as well as energy security and sustainability were also discussed by the ministers.

On top of that, the ministers have agreed on additional measures to strengthen Apec's institutional base to ensure its effectiveness and responsiveness to its stakeholders, including a 30 per cent increase in membership contributions from 2009 to help strengthen the secretariat. This represents the first increase in the Apec budget since 1998.

"We recognised efforts to streamline and bolster Apec's operational capacity, including the appointment of a Chief Operating Officer in 2007, and measures to enhance project management skills and improve related processes," the joint statement further added.

The ministers have also agreed that the time has come to consider the appointment of an Executive Director for a fixed-term and instruct officials to develop proposed conditions, responsibilities and accountability mechanisms etc for consideration in 2008.

The Apec Leaders Week continued with the Apec Business Summit yesterday and today, while Apec Business Advisory Council Meeting is currently underway and is expected to conclude Saturday. The climax will be the Apec Leaders' Meeting on Saturday and Sunday. - Borneo Bulletin (7th September 2007)