| James Kon |
THE outgoing Ambassador of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam yesterday expressed his admiration of Brunei in working towards creating a society where people of different religions and ethnic groups can live together harmoniously and he also expects this peaceful coexistence to continue.
Daniel Shields, who will be leaving the country this coming Monday, made the statement yesterday in an interview at the US Embassy.
His successor, Ambassador designate Craig Allen, will also soon be arriving in the Sultanate.
Shields plans to encourage Allen to understand how Brunei has managed over the years as well as to get to know the people and leader, while continuing to focus on energy, trade, education, security, military ties and Asean.
Besides the warmth and hospitality of Hari Raya festivities in the country, the outgoing ambassador said that he will also bring back fond memories of taking part in Regatta Brunei.
“I have fond memories of participating in the Royal Regatta… being in the river is a thrill. It’s very comfortable and cool to be on the river. I will never forget that experience,” he said.
Recalling a funny story during his stay, he laughed and shared, “We were training before the regatta at Sungai Bunga and one of the competitors showed us a picture of a crocodile in the river… We were quite worried about crocodiles showing up during our training.”
During the interview, Shields also revealed the establishment of the Brunei-US Association (BRUSA) after it recently got approval from the Registrar of Society.
“BRUSA is a broad umbrella of organisation that can carry out youth exchanges, business contacts,” he explained. “It will be a new partner in promoting friendship and cooperation between the US and Brunei.”
Looking back at more than three years of tenure in the Sultanate, he remarked, “I am happy to see the positive developments between Brunei and the US.
“The highlight was when I was back in Washington during His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s visit to the US and meeting with President Obama in March 2013. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed have also visited the US, while Secretary of State Kerry and Former Secretary Clinton also came to Brunei.”
During Shields’s tenure, Brunei’s protection of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) has proven “satisfying” and continues to improve. One of the results from the policy, he added, “is ‘Yasmine’, whereby Bruneians were able to produce a movie because they have confidence that the IPR would be protected”.
Speaking on energy cooperation, Shields hopes to see a project carried out between the US and Brunei from the US-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership (USACEP) that was launched by His Majesty and President Obama as well as the former President of Indonesia during the Cambodia Asean Year 2012.
“USACEP is a good programme… The US and Brunei have been in the forefront of pushing cooperation forward to provide sustainable energy access to people in the Asia-Pacific region. To support this goal, the US has also put up 6 billion dollars in financing.”
In terms of trade, Shields reiterated the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“TPP is an important and exciting negotiation… Brunei and the US are looking for a successful conclusion of the TPP. The opportunities involved in the TPP will open up access to the all the enormous markets, like US and Japan.
“As Brunei pursues its economic diversification agenda, the TPP presents a lot of great opportunities for individuals or companies who want to increase their exports to the TPP’s markets.”
Besides trade, the US Embassy has also put a good deal of effort into generating awareness of looking at US education as an option for Bruneians to further their studies.
“Higher education institutes like UBD, ITB, UNISSA are expanding their links with universities in the US,” he highlighted.
“In February this year, we managed to organise a large-scale US education fair and were honoured to have the Minister of Education as guest of honour. We are planning another education fair early next year, we think that awareness of study opportunities in the US has really grown in the last few years.
“I really hope to encourage anyone from Brunei to consider the US as a place for study.”
As for Asean, Shields lauded 2013 as the Asean year for Brunei. US participation in the East Asia Summit was important and Brunei had done a good job as the chair.
The meeting was well-handled, he said, and Brunei had provided strong leadership in the region and addressing South China Sea issues, trying to find diplomatic solution to the problem.
Another highlight, he added, was “when Brunei hosted the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise that brought together 18 countries, including the US and China, to work together on humanitarian assistance.
“The experience was very useful should real disasters occur. In the case of the typhoon-hit Philippines, it came shortly afterwards and the fact that we had been practising in Brunei has helped with the response”.
Before concluding the interview, Shields also expressed, “We are very grateful to His Majesty and the government as well as the people of Brunei for the hospitality and warmth during our stay…
“I will certainly continue to watch closely what is happening in Brunei. Although we have a great partnership, we really have only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential of that relationship.”