BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –  Trade volume between Brunei and China hit US$1.8 billion in 2018 — an 80 percent increase from the previous year, according to China’s ambassador to Brunei, Yu Hong. 

During a recent media dialogue with local press, the recently-appointed envoy said China had become Brunei’s second largest trading partner after Japan, seeing a continuous upswing in trade and investment between the two countries.

China is the sultanate’s largest import partner, while Brunei exports liquified natural gas to the mainland.

“China is also actively trying to expand imports from Brunei so the two sides are discussing the facilitation for more Brunei products going to China,” she told reporters. “That will include sea products, vegetables and fruits, which are still under discussion.”

Private sector companies are also working to boost Brunei’s aquaculture and agriculture exports to China, with Pure Fresh and Ghanim International recently inking a $400 million deal to set up an aquaculture supply-chain.

China’s largest online retailer, has also set-up a “Brunei Pavillion” on its website, where fisheries products from the sultanate can be sold direct to the Chinese market.

Hong added that trade and economic relations between the two countries have expanded under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative, with the leaders meeting in Beijing recently promising to “speed up” bilateral development projects.

“BRI is a very good impetus for relations between China and other countries including Brunei. More enterprises from China are coming to Brunei seeking opportunities,” the ambassador said. 

Chinese companies are also involved in several key infrastructure projects in Brunei, including the expansion of Muara Port and the construction of the Temburong Bridge. 

“Temburong Bridge is one project that is attracting a lot of attention. I believe it is very important for [Brunei’s] long-term economic development,” Hong said. “All these projects have helped Brunei increase its internal connectivity, we hope that China in the future could seek more opportunities in infrastructural development.”

China is also the main stakeholder in the largest foreign direct investment project in Brunei — the $15 billion refinery and petrochemical plant on Pulau Muara Besar — which is a 70-30 joint venture between Hengyi Industries and the Brunei government. 

Hong added that she hopes other Chinese companies, such as Huawei, WeChat Pay and AliPay will continue to work with Bruneian companies to bring products such as 5G and mobile wallets to the local market.

“I’m not privy to the developments, but I think this will facilitate and promote tourism to Brunei, as well as be quite fruitful to trade development between the two countries.”