S’pore, Brunei can strengthen ties in food security, green transitions: DPM Wong

The two nations have built deep collaboration over the decades in defence and the Currency Interchangeability Agreement, which allows each country’s currency to be exchanged at par and without charge.

Jean Iau

Jean Iau

The Straits Times


Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong speaking at a lecture moderated by Dr Dayang Hajah Huraini, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Brunei Prime Minister’s Office, in Brunei on Dec 13. PHOTO: MCI/ THE STRAITS TIMES

December 14, 2023

SINGAPORE – Brunei and Singapore can further strengthen cooperation by working together in areas such as food security, green transitions and amplifying their voices on the international stage, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Delivering a special lecture on the close relationship between the two smallest Asean nations at the Brunei Prime Minister’s Office to Bruneian leaders, senior officials, academics and students, DPM Wong on Dec 13 also urged his audience to build on existing people-to-people ties.

DPM Wong is in Brunei for the 9th Young Leaders’ Programme, where he leads the Singapore delegation of political office-holders for the first time.

While both Singapore and Brunei are small and have to adapt to the world, being small allows both nations to stay nimble, he said.

“We survive and thrive through our own wit and ingenuity. Importantly, we work with like-minded partners to advance our shared interests.”

As an example, he listed how Brunei, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand – collectively known as the P4 – inked a free trade agreement in 2005, which set the stage for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and later in 2018, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is now one of the world’s largest free trade areas.

“Small states have agency; we can make things happen despite our small size. That is why, in this big, dangerous world, it is essential for Singapore and Brunei to band together. As close friends, we must work together to manage risks proactively, and position ourselves well for the future,” DPM Wong said.

Brunei and Singapore mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2024, providing an opportunity to chart the next bound of their special relationship, he added.

The two nations have built deep collaboration over the decades in defence and the Currency Interchangeability Agreement, which allows each country’s currency to be exchanged at par and without charge, but there are ways to further strengthen cooperation, said DPM Wong.

He suggested food security as an area where there is scope to do more.

Singapore currently imports seafood products from Brunei and recently accredited it as a source for eggs, but both countries can also collaborate in areas such as processed beef, poultry and agritech research and development, DPM Wong said.

This will enable Brunei to diversify its economy as part of its Brunei Vision 2035, while Singapore will have an additional reliable source of food imports.

The two countries can also work together to strengthen preparedness for future pandemic threats, and improve medical supply resilience by facilitating the movement of medical products during times of emergency and crisis.

DPM Wong also outlined each country’s strategy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

While Brunei has the potential to scale up the deployment of renewable energy, especially solar power, Singapore is looking to import renewable energy and green hydrogen.

Both countries are also exploring solutions like carbon capture and storage, as well as carbon markets, therefore there is a lot for both sides to gain by stepping up cooperation in these areas, he added.

On the international stage, DPM Wong called for greater Asean integration through methods such as deepening digital connectivity in South-east Asia by advancing the Asean Digital Economy Framework Agreement.

He also suggested that both nations can help to advance international discussions around outstanding issues such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement, and shape the agenda for WTO reform as well as strengthen the global consensus on free trade.

Both countries can find ways to update multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so that they are better equipped to deal with global challenges, said DPM Wong.

The foundation of Brunei and Singapore’s special relationship lies in people-to-people ties and particularly among each country’s leaders, beginning with the friendship between the late Seri Begawan and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said DPM Wong.

“The friendships and frequent interactions have continued with His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and successive prime ministers of Singapore – from Mr Goh Chok Tong to now Mr Lee Hsien Loong. And I assure you that it will continue under my watch,” he added.

On Dec 13, DPM Wong also witnessed the commissioning of KDB Al-Faruq, the second of two former Fearless-class Patrol Vessels transferred from the Republic of Singapore Navy to the Royal Brunei Navy.

The commissioning was officiated by Brunei’s Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah at Muara Naval Base.

On Dec 14, DPM Wong, his wife, Mrs Wong, and the delegation will have a morning walk and breakfast with Crown Prince Billah and his wife, Princess Pengiran Anak Sarah, at the Abode eco-resort in Temburong before returning to Singapore.

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