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NEWS UPDATES 27 December 2009

Trans-Pacific deal to boost Brunei-US trade

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Brunei and the United States are poised to improve commercial ties as talks begin next year on the expansion of a trans-Pacific trade deal and prospects of direct flights between the two countries emerge, the Brunei Times reported.

"From the acquisition of new aircraft to expanded travel routes to the ongoing TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) negotiations, we see that commercial ties between the United States (and Brunei) are poised to reach new mutually beneficial level," the paper quoted US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam William E Todd  as saying.

He said the start of negotiations for the TPP is expected in the Spring of 2010.

TPP is proposed to be expanded from the original members, Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand, to include the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam.

He added the talks that are set for 2010 will focus on negotiations aimed towards "ensuring mutually beneficial agreement to promote free trade, uphold legal standards and ensure a commitment to core values in the area of labour, intellectual property rights and consumer safety".

At present, the US exports around $747 billion worth of goods a year to the Asia-Pacific region. With a membership in the TPP, Obama hopes the move will help create jobs for Americans. The US is grappling with record unemployment in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Wire agencies reported last week that US trade officials formally notified the US Congress of Obama's intention to negotiate a free trade deal with Brunei, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and three other countries in the Asia-Pacific area.

Reuters quoted US Trade Representative Ron Kirk as saying the US' participation in the TPP agreement was vital to reversing "a significant decline" in US export market share over the past decade in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

According to the US Trade Representative office, the US trade deficit with Brunei amounted to $3 million in 2008 against $265 million the previous year. US goods imported to Brunei last year were also down 20.1 percent from the previous year at $112 million. Meanwhile, Brunei’s exports to the US stood at US$114 million, down 71.8 percent.

The Sultanate is the 142nd largest export market for US goods. Despite the drop in the trade figures, the report said that the stock of US foreign direct investment in Brunei stood at $28 million in 2007 from $27 million in 2006.


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