Canada is eyeing more opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Brunei, said the country’s envoy to the sultanate.
Caterina Ventura, who was appointed high commissioner in September, said Canadian FDI in Brunei doubled between 2015 and 2016, although she declined provide specific numbers on the value of cumulative investments.
“I’ve just arrived in Brunei but we’re reaching out on how we can broaden the economic relationship — CAE and Simpor Pharma are two excellent examples of that,” she said, referring to two joint ventures between Canadian companies and the Brunei government.
Simpor Pharma is Brunei’s first factory manufacturing halal pharmaceutical products and health supplements to the global market. The plant is a US$26 million joint venture between Canadian Firm Viva Pharmaceutical Inc and the Strategic Development Capital Fund, one of Brunei’s private equity funds.
CAE is a simulation-based training facility providing solutions for the energy, defence, aerospace, and healthcare industries.
According to the high commissioner, Brunei also continues to be a potential market for Canadian companies in oil and gas, clean technologies, agriculture and agri-food, defence and security and education.
Trade volume, however, still remains negligible. Canada’s merchandise exports to Brunei in 2016 amounted to $9.8 million, most notably in the aerospace sector. In 2016, merchandise imports from Brunei to Canada totaled $2.1 million, consisting mostly of organic chemicals.
Venutra said the Trans-Pacific Partnership — an 11-nation free-trade agreement to which Brunei is a signatory — remains a key element of Canada’s trade agenda, despite the United States’ recent withdrawal from the pact.
“We are looking at becoming a comprehensive and progressive trade agreement, because for Canada issues relating to labour rights are very important and we [need to] incorporate that into the agreement.”
Ventura said she also seeks to expand education and cultural ties between the two countries. Canada recently announced a $10 million scholarship fund for ASEAN students to be disbursed over the next five years.
At the end of 2016, more than 50 students from Brunei were studying at post-secondary institutions in Canada, including government scholarship holders.