Brunei-US ties go from strength to strength

Izah Azahari

The United States (US) marked the 170th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between Brunei Darussalam and the US on the 244th birthday of the US.

According to a press release issued by the United States Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, the treaty proclaimed that “Peace, friendship, and good understanding shall henceforth and forever subsist” between the two countries. It was signed by the 23rd Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II and US Consul Joseph Balestier in 1850, forming the basis of bilateral ties and contributing to peace, stability, and free trade in the Indo-Pacific region.

The treaty entered into force three years later in 1853, and is still in effect today.

Brunei-US ties promote peace and security for the two countries and throughout the region.

The US military’s close cooperation with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) goes from strength to strength through maritime exercises like the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) – which celebrated its 25th iteration last year; as well as growing land force exercises such as Pahlawan Warrior.

Bruneian and US military personnel and defence officials participate in security and leadership training programmes together in both the US and Brunei, including at the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Command and Staff College.

The growing military cooperation echoes the partnership in World War II, when over 28,000 US soldiers, sailors, and marines took part in the liberation of Brunei alongside allied forces.

The Jawi text of the signature page of the 1850 treaty. PHOTO: US EMBASSY IN BRUNEI DARUSSALAM

The people-to-people connections energise and create special meaning in the growing relationship between Brunei and the US.

Hundreds of Bruneians have developed their skills and expanded their networks through exchange programmes such as the Fulbright Programme, International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP), and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).

While in the US, they have worked with Americans in a wide range of fields including entrepreneurship, energy policy, law enforcement, and public health.

Bruneians and Americans also connect by studying together. Bruneians are attending US educational institutions, from young people in their accessible community colleges and universities to students training to be pilots at vocational schools to graduate students and mid-career officials sharpening their skills at their world-class universities.

A growing number of Americans are studying in Brunei as well, including their first American Fulbright student later this year.

Supported by the Brunei-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, Brunei and the US engage regularly on trade and investment issues. In 2018, Brunei and the US recorded over USD360 million in total trade of goods.

Brunei Darussalam is home to a community of US oil and gas services companies, which has generated employment opportunities and facilitated capacity building in specialised fields.

Brunei has enjoyed and benefitted from a wide range of US goods and services, including digital innovations, financial services, social media platforms, aerospace technology, and mass media.

As Brunei continues its economic diversification, the US looks to support Brunei’s digital economy and advance public health cooperation. The US Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership improves digital connectivity and connects business leaders with leading US technology companies to share best practices.

The newly launched US-ASEAN Health Futures initiative builds on the USD3.5 billion in public health assistance provided across ASEAN over the last 20 years, aiming to enhance health security through research, public health, and training for the next generation of health professionals.

Brunei and the US share a respect for the sovereignty and independence of nations, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and adherence to international law, and together uphold the freedom of the seas, which is critical to global security, stability, and prosperity.

The US remains committed to resolving disputes peacefully in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea, and maintaining and respecting freedom of navigation and overflight.