Canada Eyes Major Investment Opportunities in Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan – Bilateral relations between Canada and Brunei
have strengthened over the years. Promising progresses were also shown
in 2008.

In conjunction with the occasion of Canada Day, the Bulletin had
the opportunity to interview the High Commissioner of Canada to Brunei
Darussalam, Mr Wendell Sanford. He shared the progress and development
that Canada and Brunei have achieved as well as interests Canada has in
the sultanate.

The current trade figures between Canada and Brunei are modest, Mr
Sanford said. In 2008, Canada exported B$3.1 million to Brunei, mainly
machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, plastics, and precision
scientific equipment. Canada imported B$3 million from Brunei
comprising knit and woven apparel, rubber, electrical and electronic
equipment, perfumery as well as leather goods.

“It is too early to tell how these figures will react to the current
world economic crisis in 2009. However Canadian exporters, notably
Bombardier Aerospace, are very interested in the Brunei market and seek
major sales opportunities,” he said.

Speaking on whether there are areas that Canada is looking to work
with Brunei in, the High Commissioner said, the most notable current
project of Canadian origin in Brunei is the Nations Petroleum
exploration of Block L which constitutes half of the land mass of
Brunei plus a portion of the offshore.

“This project will result in an investment in the order of B$24 million in the sultanate,” he highlighted.

Canada is looking to expand cooperation in the oil and gas sector
with Brunei especially as Nations Petroleum is making a major
investment. Nations Petroleum, according to Mr Sanford recently
completed a seismic survey of Block L and is expecting to begin
drilling an exploratory well later this year.

In the meantime, a number of Canadian oil and gas related firms have
made investments and sales in Brunei. For example, CIC Environmental
Services of Kuala Belait, a joint partnership between Cathay Scientific
Instruments of KB and Inland Technology’ of Halifax in oil recycling,
while Canadian Helicopters Corporation of Richmond, BC supplies
offshore helicopters and crews for Total’s Brunei operation.

Canada is also interested in developing its relations with Brunei in
ICT, Halal food and environment sectors. “We are the home of BlackBerry
and the developers of Java software,” Mr Sanford said.

“Our firms in both hardware and software are among the world’s best.
Canada currently has more than one million residents who are Muslims.
As a consequence, the market for Halal food is growing rapidly,” the
High Commissioner explained.

Given Brunei’s leadership in the establishment of Halal food and
pharmaceutical standards, Mr Sanford said, Canadian firms are looking
closely at Brunei as a logical location to both market and manufacture
Halal food and medicinal-products.

Brunei’s Heart of Borneo approach resonates strongly with Canadians
particularly those who live in our temperate rainforests along the
Pacific Ocean in British Columbia.

The High Commission sees excellent opportunities for shared research
and development in this particular sector, said the Canadian High

Commenting on the current influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, Mr Sanford
said, given Canada’s location in North America and the tendency for
Canadians to flock to Mexican beaches during its northern winter, there
is no surprise that Canada was one of the first countries affected by
the pandemic.

“However, as it arrived in early April just at the end of both our
flu and travel to the south season, the number of cases has been kept
within reasonable numbers without any serious outbreak,” he shared with
the Bulletin.

“With world travel such as it is, inevitably, H1N1 and all future
viruses will travel all over the world as we have learned here in
Brunei this week,” said Mr Sanford.

The question to watch for in the near term, he highlighted, will be
how long it takes to develop and disperse a new vaccine for H1N1. Of
even greater importance will be to see whether it returns with the
northern flu season in November December and how virulent it will be.

`The flu’ is a very common ailment in Canada during its winter.
“Whether it will be more prevalent and more dangerous remains to be

“In the meantime our public health officials are working diligently to be prepared for the upcoming season,” he said.

It should be noted that scientists at Canada’s virus control labs in
Winnipeg were the first to identify the new strain based on a close
professional relationship with Mexican authorities who provided them
with the first samples for analysis.

When asked about the total number of people from Brunei currently
residing in Canada, Mr Sanford said, currently, it is estimated that
approximately 3,000 individuals born in Brunei are residents in Canada.
Most of them are staying in Edmonton, Alberta and Vancouver, British

“A large number of these immigrants have become Canadian citizens,” he shared.

The current estimation of Bruneian students in Canada is in the order of 20 per annum.

The High Commissioner said, given the high quality of education in
Canada and the cosmopolitan nature of its campuses, Asian students
attend in large numbers however, the safety of the cities are
surprisingly low in numbers.

With this, Mr Sanford said, the Government of Brunei is currently
working with the High Commission to establish a scholarship programme
to Canada, which will sponsor 50 students per year.

“In addition, Canada is taking a close look at University Brunei
Darussalam Discovery Year Programme to determine which Canadian
universities would make the best partners,” said the High Commissioner.

As for the Canadian population in Brunei, it is estimated that 200
to 250 Canadians are residents in the sultanate, mostly in the oil and
gas industry and education. The High Commission is currently conducting
a Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) programme to encourage
Canadians to register with the High Commission online so that they can
be located should a natural disaster, such as the Ache tsunami, occur.

“We wish to encourage all resident Canadians to go online at the
following site to get on the list,” the
Canadian High Commissioner. “An added bonus is that ROCA participants
will be invited to future Canada Day festivities held in Brunei,” he
said. — Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin