BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and China reiterated their desire to ramp up cooperation in infrastructure development through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), after leaders of the two countries met in Beijing on Friday.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and President Xi Jinping held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the BRI Forum, which aims to promote China’s plan for a massive network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks that links dozens of countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.

According to reports in Chinese state media, Xi said he would prioritise the implementation of key projects with Brunei, although no specific projects were mentioned.

His Majesty said Brunei was ready to expand cooperation on all fronts, aligning BRI to the sultanate’s development plan, Vision 2035.

The Chinese president also said they would build the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor into an “example of cooperation” by boosting trade in trade in agriculture, halal food, and aquaculture through the corridor, after two-way trade exceeded $1.8 billion in 2018.

He also encouraged the alignment between ASEAN and BRI and to boost regional connectivity and development.

Last November, Brunei and China signed a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative, with the sultanate saying it would welcome more investment from China to help diversify its oil-dependent economy.

While several Chinese firms are already involved in major infrastructure projects in Brunei — from the Temburong Bridge and Ulu Tutong Dam, to the Telisai-Lumut Highway — these projects were financed by the Brunei government without Chinese-backed lending from BRI.