BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne made her first working visit to Brunei on Wednesday to hold talks with His Majesty the Sultan and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“This was the first bilateral visit by an Australian Foreign Minister, and [we] discussed ASEAN, our shared regional priorities and valued cooperation on multilateral trade,” Payne said on her Twitter account.

Discussions focused on furthering bilateral ties and how Australia and Brunei can work together on key regional issues ahead of Brunei’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2021, a statement from the High Commission of Australia read.

During the audience with His Majesty, Payne expressed Australia’s commitment to building a “prosperous, stable and secure Indo-Pacific region” through cooperation with ASEAN.

She also spoke about working collaboratively ASEAN and Brunei on issues of mutual interest, including security in the South China Sea and regional responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Payne thanked the Sultan and people of Brunei for their condolences and readiness to assist during Australia’s recent bushfire crisis. She added that one of the best ways to support affected areas is to visit for a holiday, providing a boost for the tourism industry.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne pays her respect to fallen WWII soldiers at the Brunei-Australia Memorial at Muara Beach. Photo: Courtesy of the High Commission of Australia

Brunei and Australia have long-standing relationship in education, defence and trade, with two-way trade reaching close to $1 billion each year.

Payne also met with her counterpart, Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof, for discussions on trade liberlisation.

The two countries are partners in a number of multilateral free trade agreements, such as the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“Brunei’s Dato Erywan is a strong proponent of free trade, the need to ensure global rules are fit for purpose and the value of UN Convention on Law of the Sea,” Payne commented on Twitter. “We had positive talks this morning on these and many issues. We look forward to Brunei’s chairing ASEAN 2021.”

In her role as Australia’s Minister for Women, she also met with female leaders in the government and corporate sectors, to discuss the challenges and opportunities for increasing women’s leadership in both Australia and Brunei.

Those attending included members of the Legislative Council, the vice-chancellors of Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Universiti Teknologi Brunei, and the chief executives of telco companies imagine and Progresif.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne (2R) meets with women leaders in Brunei’s government and corporate sector. Photo: Twitter/Marise Payne

“Increasing the number of women in leadership across all sectors creates role models who are fundamental to gender equality,” Payne said. “I had an energising discussion this morning with some female leaders in Brunei about everything from women pilots to the Matildas.”

The minister ended her two-day visit by paying respects to fallen soldiers at the Brunei-Australia Memorial at Muara Beach, which marks the landing point of Australian troops during the liberation of North Borneo in 1945. Some 114 Australian soldiers lost their lives during the campaign, which ended the Japanese occupation of Brunei during World War II.