BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and Australia have agreed to elevate ties to a “comprehensive partnership”, pledging to deepen cooperation in trade, investment, and maritime security.

The new partnership will also see the two countries work together in new areas including cybersecurity, food security and climate change.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met in Canberra on Monday to formalise the process by signing a joint declaration.

“The partnership offers a chance to cooperate on the net-zero transition in the region, strengthen trade ties, and deepen cooperation on defence and security,” Albanese said.

“It affirms our shared support for ASEAN as the region’s central platform for open, transparent and rules-based dialogue.”

According to the Brunei government, a plan of action will be developed to chart the strategic direction of ties in the coming years.

Brunei’s monarch is on a three-day state visit to Australia, beginning in Canberra where he met with the prime minister and Governor-General David John Hurley. After attending a gathering of Bruneian students in Melbourne on Tuesday, His Majesty will travel to Darwin to visit Robertson Barracks and meet Australian Defence Force personnel.

Defence cooperation is a key interest for Brunei, which has recently beefed up maritime surveillance and acquired new military assets as big-power competition intensifies in the region.

His Majesty said cooperation built together will “ensure resilience against future challenges”, according to a media release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

He also expressed appreciation for the Australia’s donation of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, and for playing a key role in maintaining supply chains for food exports to Brunei during the pandemic.

Australia was Brunei’s top trading partner in 2022.