China wants in on BIMP-EAGA

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Waqiuddin Rajak

China wants to be more involved in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), particularly in connectivity projects, as it looks to further strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia.

China’s ambassador to Brunei, Her Excellency Yan Jian (pictured), said China is eager to upgrade its partnership status with the sub-regional trade bloc to a possible formation of “BIMP-EAGA + China” by the end of this year.

She said China has been involved in BIMP-EAGA’s development roadmap for many years, but the nation now seeks to intensify collaboration with the sub-region as it looks beyond its borders for trade opportunities in the wake of its fast-paced economic growth.

“China has yet to identify the specific areas it wants to collaborate in, but connectivity will probably be one of its top priorities,” the ambassador said.

“We also know BIMP-EAGA (member states) have their own priorities at the moment and we are definitely eager to assist them in that,” she added.

Her Excellency Jian was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a networking event hosted by the Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DPPMB) at the Empire Hotel and Country Club earlier today.

The ambassador said she was also aware that Brunei will be hosting this year’s BIMP-EAGA session, which is expected to include various high level meetings.

“One of them would be to discuss the inclusion of China into BIMP-EAGA, possibly forming the BIMP-EAGA + China later this year,” the ambassador said, adding that this move is in line with realising China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Through the BRI, China aims to bolster economic ties with its continental neighbours by building infrastructural links to countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa, via land and sea.

The campaign that begun in 2013 has enabled China to develop several mega projects across ASEAN, including the oil refinery project currently underway in Brunei’s Pulau Muara Besar.

The soon to be completed bridge linking Pulau Muara Besar and Muara town.

China has also set up its state bank in the sultanate as well as a few joint ventures including Hiseaton Fisheries and a steel-producing company HLDS (B), both of which have already exported their products overseas.

Other notable China-backed projects include Guangxi Ruian Logistics, a company that processes spices for export under Brunei’s Halal label.

China’s latest project with Brunei is the ongoing Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor, which has led to the formation of the joint-venture Muara Port Company (MPC).

The Bruneian