Brunei: Belgium eyes tie-up in halal certification

Belgium eyes tie-up in halal certification

Philippe Suinen, CEO of Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX), delivering his speech. Picture: BT/Saifulizam

Some of the invited guests attending the AWEX introduction presentation, held at the Business centre of The Empire Hotel and Country Club. Picture: BT/Saifulizam

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A BUSINESS delegation from Belgium that is keen to partner with Brunei on potential bilateral collaboration would need to meet a stringent requirement in terms of halal certification, says the Director of Administration at the State Mufti’s Office.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari Pehin Siraja Khatib Hj Abu Hanifah said yesterday there were interesting and brilliant ideas brought forward by the Belgium delegation. The group was led by Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX).

However, the foreign investors would need to come up with a formal proposal, particularly in terms of technology in halal certification, if Brunei were to open up to the ideas.

“Come to us with the technology, such as in education and information technology. We are serious about it (on halal certification),” said Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari.

In terms of halal certification, foreign investors are welcome to propose technology that Brunei can use for halal branding but the certification must come from Brunei itself.

“We cannot certify halal things from non-Muslims…You come to us with your ‘knife’, and this is a good ‘knife’, and Brunei can slaughter with the ‘knife’,” said Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari, associating the ‘knife’ as technology.

He further stressed that it is necessary to be stringent when it comes to partnership on halal certification as “in any kind of consumer good, whether meat, cosmetics or clothing, it must be 100 per cent halal”.

In return, Brunei can also offer expertise to foreign investors such as in terms of syariah (Islamic Law), as Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari highlighted a publication containing compiled fatwas (Islamic religious rulings) on Islamic monetary issues in Brunei demonstrating Brunei’s infrastructure in Islamic finance.

In his opening remarks at a plenary session attended by various government agencies yesterday, Philippe Suinen, the administrator-general of AWEX, highlighted that the two countries are centres in its own right. “Brunei as one of the centres in the ASEAN region and Belgium as the centre of the European Union,” he said.

Further explaining the interest of partnering with Brunei, Suinen stated that both countries placed priority on innovation in technology, as well as innovation in management, marketing, social research and human reseach.

At the same time, Suinen introduced to the Brunei counterparts the “Welcome Offices and Incubators”, an incubation service allowing companies coming from the ASEAN region to test the European market for viable investment opportunities, for a period of three to six months at a low cost.

As Brunei has a strong position as a halal capital country, AWEX presented its strong base in specific development in Muslim economy.

In this regard, Suinen brought forward a PICCTRA — Point of Information, Contact, Coaching and Training on Muslim economy and culture. He also informed of a network of Halal Clubs that was created in October 2010 with 70 exporting companies as members sharing experience, information and action in relation to halal economy.

The delegation also introduced an idea about an Islamic Bridge Fund in an effort to develop a financial gateway between Muslim countries and the heart of Eupope.

With AWEX acting as a facilitator, there were three companies in the delegation that presented projects to the Brunei counterpart.

Of the three companies, Progenus that offers global DNA innovative solution, seeks to offer its services to Brunei by becoming a strategic partner for the certification development and the quality Halal control in the country, and to be the partner in locally developing a kit production network among others.

Another company, Ion Beam Application (IBA), introduced the concept of molecular imaging, a personalised diagnosis and therapy through a more patient-centric healthcare.

During the session that was held at The Empire Hotel and Country Club, the Brunei delegation was represented by officials from various government and non-government agencies, including from the State Mufti’s Office, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Health as well as the Brunei Economic Development Board.

Brunei – Centre for Halal certification in region?

Bandar Seri Begawan – With its strategic location in Asean and known high quality ‘halal’ certification, Brunei – through collaboration with Belgian firms – has the potential to be the centre for halal certification for the region and a gateway for the halal market.

This observation was made by Philippe Suinen, the Administrator General of Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency; and Marc Deschamps, a Special Advisor to the CEO of Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency, during a press conference at The Empire Hotel and Country Club yesterday, following a series of meetings with the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Mr Deschamps said in an interview, “Brunei’s reputation and approach to the Brunei Halal brand are very interesting to international firms.

“It is very important for international and European firms to pick the right partner when they enter the halal economy. The right partner is one who has both a scientific base to adapt to products, and also religious credibility. Brunei has both, so it makes sense for us to be here.”

Mr Deschamps further said, “We have had meetings with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Religious Affairs and also the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources. We want to establish the basis of compliance before entering into negotiation on what types of activities to enter into Brunei.

“Our mission here is also to support Belgium companies through joint venture and partnership to support each other.

Together with the Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX) group in Brunei are Robert Renavil, CEO of Progenus – which offers DNA halal test laboratory technology; Alain Partoens, partner of Vesalius Bio Capital – a company that supports the development of groundbreaking medical treatment; and Peter Leitner of IBA – a company that boasts the latest molecular imaging as well as radiation therapy with proton particulars for cancer prevention.

Robert Renavil said, “We are here to look at the halal certification by Brunei authorities, to create partnership and to make Brunei a gateway to other Asean counties.

“The first step is to establish relationship with the authority and then look at partnership,” he added.

“We feel there is high-quality halal certification in Brunei and aim to develop clinical halal certification.”

Touching on the state-of-the-art halal DNA test laboratory, Mr Deschamps said, “With a very efficient test on certification and Brunei’s strategic location, the benefit of a halal industry will not only be for locals but also exportation market.

“We believe that it will be an interesting approach for us to establish partnership with Brunei for all markets in the region,” he added.

“It is important to be the first country to go through the certification process, which has two parts. The clinical part – whereby scientists will discuss and come up with the best technology and the second part is on the technology of process in certification, whereby once the test is done by one of the countries, the result of the test is available for the whole region.”

He further said, “How can we move from the technical and scientific proof to the point of trust, where a procedure is in place to say the lab will perform the certification recognised by everyone? This is why we need collaboration with various authorities, not only at the national, but also regional level.

“At the preparation meeting with Brunei’s Ambassador to Belgium Dato Paduka Serbini Ali, we were made to understand that there are working groups in Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia that come up with a joint halal certification or compliance. We really welcome efforts made by authorities in the region in coming up with the first system of joint certification or compliance,” said Mr Deschamps.

Mr Suinen, meanwhile, said, “This does not mean that we are closing doors to other countries in the region, but it shows that Brunei is an obvious reference for a win-win situation.”

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin