Hot on the heels of a meeting in London between UK envoys, where Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague set out the foreign policy priorities of the new British coalition government, British High Commisioner Rob Fenn said "the news is good" on how the UK's foreign policy would affect its interests in Brunei.
The conference was also attended by the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, where "all four senior members of the government stressed that their vision was internationalist — that Britain's influence, prosperity and responsibilities required reaching out to partners in a "networked world", said Fenn.
With Brunei-UK's solid bilateral relations, he added, this initiative "will put the emphasis as much on continuity, as on innovation". He made a reference to the long-standing relationship between the two countries, saying that "the (British) government appreciates the importance of old friends like Brunei, and of long-standing institutions, like the Commonwealth; and it will be on the look out for ways to strengthen and invigorate them.
Given the new government's high level of ambition, he added, this would also apply to "reducing the deficit" — "to bring down the cost of borrowing while ensuring a strong recovery and accelerating economic growth (where) ministers have called for a 'new commercialism' in foreign policy".
"By this we mean harnessing the power of trade to boost prosperity at home and abroad," he said. When asked if this "prosperity agenda" would mean changes for Britain's current investments in Brunei and its involvement in various industries, Fenn said it would involve all of the above. "I would say it means not taking for granted the benefits which Britain and Brunei each derive from investments in the other's economy." He added that will also mean "working round the clock to support potential new investments, and to encourage business links in both directions".
In a speech delivered to address the new direction the UK's foreign policy would be taking, Foreign Secretary of England William Hague said Prime Minister David Cameron "has signalled our intention to chart a clear way forward by launching a strategic review of our defence and security needs, led by the requirements of foreign policy as well inevitable financial constraints, and that a review will be compiled by Autumn".
Hague was also quoted as saying as part of the Foreign Office's focus to solidify its economic position, they would "encourage small businesses to take their products into international markets". According to Fenn, that focus would certainly apply to Brunei. "SMEs are the most dynamic sector of many economies, creating jobs and wealth. There is also something about the process of exporting which helps small firms to grow."
One initiative to capture those benefits for Britain and Brunei, said Fenn, is that they would "ensure that the interlinked websites of this High Commission (www.UKinBrunei.fco.gov.uk), the UK Trade and Investment department (UKTI) and the Britain Brunei Business Forum (BBBF) are a valuable resource for SMEs in both our countries".
Fenn also spent time in England launching "Brunei Darussalam: Custodian of the Rainforest", a film sanctioned and funded by the British High Commission. The film pays tribute to the strong leadership and support for the preservation of the great rainforests of Borneo and the environment as shown by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, and Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, as well as by the government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
The film narrates the experiences of delegates and scientists who were invited by the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) to the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) 2010, during which participants visited the UBD campus as well as the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre.The Brunei Times