Taiwan-Brunei relations are gradually moving forward amid challenges, especially in the areas of agriculture, tourism, trade, education and people-to-people exchanges, Taiwan Representative to Brunei Andrew Lee (李憲章) said on Friday.
Lee, who assumed his post in August last year, spoke about the development of bilateral relations in a telephone interview with the Central News Agency.
People-to-people connections between Taiwan and Brunei are deep, Lee said.
For example, 10.3 percent, or about 47,000, of Brunei’s population of 460,000 people have ethnic Chinese ancestry. Among them, 80 percent can be traced to Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen Island, he said.
In the 1960s, when Southeast Asia was wary of communist infiltration, many ethnic Chinese in Brunei chose to study the Chinese language in Taiwan rather than in China, he said.
After returning, those students formed the Taiwan Graduates Association of Brunei. Today, the association, together with the Taiwan Business Association in Brunei Darussalam, continue to work to enhance Taiwan-Brunei relations, Lee said.
In terms of economic links, Brunei’s small market and its heavy reliance on natural gas and oil exports has limited trade with Taiwan. Last year, Taiwan-Brunei bilateral trade was US$170 million, making Brunei Taiwan’s 75th-largest trading partner.
In an effort to improve this situation, Lee has helped more than 30 Taiwanese companies participate in trade shows in Brunei for purposes of business matching.
He also invited a major fruit dealer in Brunei to visit Taiwan in November last year, which resulted in deals being signed with Taiwanese farmers.
In line with Brunei’s Vision 2035, which aims to boost economic diversification, Lee said that he sees prospects for agricultural cooperation.
“Taiwan is willing to introduce Agriculture 4.0, which incorporates new technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and biodetection systems, to help Brunei achieve its goal of self-reliance in agricultural products,” Lee said.
Other experiences he said that Taiwan could share with Brunei include the development of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, which have created about 9 million employment opportunities in Taiwan, and the logistics industry, which could help boost Brunei’s retail industry.
Lee said that he hopes to introduce Taiwan’s vocational education system to Brunei, as well as to introduce Brunei to Taiwanese businesspeople as a springboard to other Halal food markets.
Due to the increased influence of China, the Bruneian government is cautious when engaging with Taiwan, he said.
“It is important to let the Bruneian government understand that Taiwan is here for friendship and cooperation,” Lee said.
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