TPP pact to boost FDI to Brunei

US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis. Picture: BT/Quaratul-Ain Bandial

THE Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will significantly boost foreign direct investment to Brunei by increasing investor confidence in the Sultanate compliance with high trade standards, said the US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis yesterday.

Marantis, who is in the country for high-level TPP talks with government agencies, said the agreement would "lock in" market access to the United States and help Brunei diversify its economy beyond oil and gas. "When foreign investors look around the world to decide where they want to invest, they want to make sure that the country that they are investing in has high standard investment protection," he said during a press conference at the US embassy.

"That's one of the areas we're working on in TPP to ensure that the countries maintain high standards of investment protection, in order to make each country an attractive destination for foreign investment."

As a member of the trade pact, Brunei will be obliged to comply with rules set within the agreement regarding investment, financial services, labour, environmental and intellectual property issues, among others.

Marantis told reporters that by incorporating these obligations, Brunei will distinguish itself in the region as a "blue ribbon" destination for foreign investment.

"When foreign investors look around the region, they will see that Brunei has signed on to these high standard obligations and it would just make it a more attractive destination," he said.

Calling the agreement "a real win-win" for all negotiating countries, the US trade envoy described the nine TPP partners the US, Brunei, Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Malaysia and Vietnam as an "exclusive club" that will operate a free trade zone.

With President Barack Obama giving trade negotiators until the APEC Summit in November to complete the text of the agreement, negotiations have accelerated with the next round of talks taking place in Melbourne next month.

"I think the challenge that we have (is) a lot of work to do. And we need to redouble our efforts to get this done. The good thing about Brunei, the US, and the other TPP countries is we are all focused on achieving a common purpose." said Marantis.

Recognising that meeting the deadline will be difficult for countries short on manpower, such as Brunei, Marantis said that the US has offered technical assistance by sending negotiators here last January to hash out some of the issues under negotiation.

"Today in my meetings with the various ministries, I underscored our willingness to continue to do so, to ensure that Brunei has the capability to meet the high standard obligations we're negotiating," he added.

With the upcoming talks in Melbourne, Marantis said: "We hope to continue to build on the progress that we've made and narrow down the issues of difference, so that we are able to close the negotiation out quickly."

The Brunei Times

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