Diplomacy key in resolving rows: HRH
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
WHEN resolving regional conflict Brunei will always seek consensus over compromises that may affect ASEAN members’ national interests, said HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“We consider diplomacy to be our first line of defence and that the best way to approach differences of opinion is through consultation and dialogue,” he said in an interview recently published in the Oxford Business Group (OBG) 2014 country report for Brunei.
During Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2013, the government focused much effort on calming tensions over the South China Sea, territory that is claimed by China, as well as ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
China and ASEAN have been locked in a dispute on how to handle competing claims over the waters – thought to be rich in oil and gas – with the Philippines and Vietnam urging more concrete action to counter what they perceive as China’s growing assertiveness.
HRH also underscored ASEAN unity as the cornerstone of Brunei’s foreign policy, citing regional economic cooperation as the key to Brunei’s growth.
“The Sultanate’s goals for economic diversification… depend a great deal on a positive relationship with our partners from around the world.”
“Despite being a small country we want to succeed in the vast world of modern trade.
“This means we must give our businessmen and women the chance not only to enter regional markets but also to take advantage of the global opportunities that ASEAN offers through its free trade agreements,” he said in reference to the plan for ASEAN economies to integrate into a single market, dubbed the ASEAN Economic Community.
HRH added that the government must help local businesses reach international standards, otherwise they will not be able to compete once the AEC gets ready and materialises.
“Our immediate aim is to reach the various ASEAN targets set out for 2015.”
The Brunei Times