| James Kon |
TO STRENGTHEN overall trade, investment and economic cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and the Lao PDR, a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Brunei Darussalam (NCCIBD) and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) yesterday.
The signing was held at the Empire Hotel & Country Club during the Business Networking Session between members of the business community in Brunei Darussalam and a business delegation representing the Lao PDR, held in conjunction with Prime Minister of Lao PDR Dr Thongloun Sisoulith’s State Visit to Brunei Darussalam.
Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein and Minister of Industry and Commerce of Lao PDR Khemmani Pholsena witnessed the signing.
Signing on behalf of the NCCIBD was its President Haji Mohammad Hanafi bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Abdul Rahman, while Lao PDR National Chamber of Commerce President Audet Souvennavong signed on behalf of the LNCCI.
In his opening remarks, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah highlighted the expansion of bilateral relations between Brunei and Lao PDR across various areas, “including trade and economic cooperation”, since the two nations established diplomatic relations in 1993.
“An important milestone in our economic relations was the avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA), which came into effect in 2011,” the minister said. “The DTA has become a further catalyst in the cross-border flow of trade as well as exchanges of technical knowhow and expertise between our countries.
“We also continue to see positive trade engagements between Brunei and Lao PDR. I trust that our ties could be further strengthened especially between businesses.”
Within the context of ASEAN, the minister noted, “Brunei continues to work closely with Lao PDR and other ASEAN member states to pursue common economic integration objectives. In particular, we remain committed to creating more enabling environments conducive to trade and investment, and boosting the economic growth and development of our country.”
The minister hoped the networking session will further enhance collaboration and partnership between Brunei and Lao PDR businesses.
“We recognise that the private sector plays a vital role in the development of our economies and implementation of regional objectives. The private sector’s role as growth catalysts for innovation also needs to be nurtured as it creates new quality employment opportunities which lead to spinoff industries, thereby spurring greater economic growth and development.
“The global economy and trade have undergone significant changes over the last few years. For instance, the rapidly evolving nature of technology and growing connectivity is fundamentally changing how government and businesses operate. Given these developments and the positive contribution of businesses to the economy, dialogue between governments and businesses is indeed very important,” he said.
Outlining Brunei’s strategy for diversifying its economy and creating jobs, the minister said, “Our strategy is focussed on supporting private sector growth for the long-term through the adoption of pro-investment and pro-growth policies. Some of the initiatives that we have undertaken include streamlining processes to make starting and doing business easier, enhancing our legal structure, providing tax incentives, and [facilitating easier] access to finance through the creation of an SME bank.”
“I trust that through this MoU signing, we can boost private business linkages to further realise the business prospects of both [our countries],” the minister added.
Other Brunei officials present at the ceremony included Deputy Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw as well as Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin.
Lao PDR representatives included Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Kikeo Chanthabouly, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Thongpath Vongmany, and Ambassador of the Lao PDR to Brunei Darussalam Phonethavy Boutdara.