British minister makes maiden visit to Brunei tomorrow

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - THe British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Field will make his first visit to Brunei from tomorrow to August 21 as part of his six-country visit to Southeast Asia.

In a statement by the British High Commission (BHC) in Brunei Darussalam, the minister is scheduled to meet with high-level officials, visit places of interest as well as have an audience with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The minister delivered a speech on the United Kingdom (UK)’s ‘All of Asia’ policy to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta on August 14 at the start of his visit, where he outlined UK’s activity in countries all across Asia.

Field in his speech touched on an "All of Asia" policy, focussing on prosperity, security and values that demonstrate emphatically the UK’s recognition of the importance of Asia for the 21st Century, and is engaging in an active and modern partnership with both the governments and the people across the region.

"It is about working together, with all of Asia, in a partnership of equals. Working together to build a future that is safer, freer, and more prosperous," he noted.

He was impressed with the region’s sheer diversity; a population of over three billion people, more than 2,000 languages and a vibrant mix of faiths and communities. "Asia is both everything you can imagine, and nothing you would expect – diversity at its finest."

Field also identified the need to build a common approach to the building shared prosperity. He highlighted key areas for bilateral cooperation comprising education, improve the business climate, innovation associated with the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, and laying the groundwork for future Free Trade Agreements and trade partnerships

He was optimistic about conversations with leaders from ASEAN member states on the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with ASEAN. During his visit to Brunei, the minister will engage with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to cover the future of UK-Brunei and UK-ASEAN relations; new trade and investment opportunities; and further collaboration on foreign policy.

Field affirmed that there can be no lasting prosperity without security, and highlighted the importance of the UK working with all the countries of the region to work together to uphold the rules-based international order.

He also used his speech to urge all parties to respect freedom of navigation and international law in the South China Sea, including the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The UK, he noted, is actively committed to the security in the region with the deployment of two Royal Navy ships to the Asia-Pacific this year – HMS Albion, which will visit Brunei for the second time next month, and HMS Sutherland, with more of the UK’s world class fleet due to visit by the end of the year.

"This naval presence provides a visible demonstration of the UK’s commitment to enforcement of UNSC sanctions and to peace, security and prosperity in the region. British Forces Brunei has remained there since independence, at the invitation of His Majesty," he added.

British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Richard Lindsay looks forward to hosting Field’s visit to Brunei, commenting that the visit reflects UK’s deep engagement with the Sultanate as its commitment to the Southeast Asian region.

"He is keen to celebrate the ties which already bind our countries so closely, but also to explore how these can be broadened – including areas, such as the financial services sector where there are significant opportunities to generate prosperity, and create jobs," he noted.