Bandar Seri Begawan: The latest instalment of business-to-business meetings between French and Brunei companies kicked off to a positive start with as many as 80 meetings arranged for the two sides as they look for ways to supplement the country's oil and gas industry.
In several interviews with a number of French companies currently in the Sultanate as they search for potential business partners, among what was highlighted are the various opportunities that can be explored ranging from environment preservation to the training of human resources.
With about 25 local companies present for these meetings, the response from these small and medium enterprises bode well with the objectives of the French delegates who have commented on the willingness of participants to reach out to international partners.
The Chief Operating Officer of SICA Asia Pte Ltd, Bruno Leuridan, expressed his enthusiasm stating, "I have always been very impressed by the willingness of local Brunei companies who want to work with companies like us or to sign partnership agreements in order to serve the companies you have here." He added, "These companies work locally but think globally. So, we are happy to bring them our global operation to serve their own customers here."
And taking into consideration that the oil and gas industry in 'Brunei continues to expand, the potential to further consider setting up shop in Brunei is significant.
Their two-day stay here in the Sultanate, he said, is hoped to forge stronger relationships as a means to not just bring in international expertise, but to also introduce local enterprises to the world.
"Brunei companies can offer their knowledge of their local customers here and the many services they provide, seeing that most of them have a very wide scope of competencies through providing the oil companies here with many, many different services."
On the human resource front, meanwhile, Watlab's Associate Director Francois Hussenot explained that their services can aid in the training of Brunei's young engineers by providing them with real-life scenarios and therefore, providing them with in-depth knowledge outside the classroom.
After having discussed with two local higher education institutions, he explained that Watlab has proposed practical training for new graduates, stressing that the intent behind this move is to familiarise the students with the technical aspects of situations they would be handling in their careers.
With Brunei looking towards making available thousands of employment opportunities under the Energy White Paper that was released two years ago that aims to see 50,000 job prospects and the developing of 5,000 professionals, the services offered by Watlab could be an advantage should the institutions they met with decide to engage their offers.
Environmentally, meanwhile, among those who arrived from France included Eric Dutrieux of Creocean whose services include the preservation of Brunei's corals, which is what the government is looking towards and assisting the oil and gas industry is certainly possible.
"We can work in a lot of ways," he said. "We are here in Brunei to assess whether there is a potential market or not," but armed with experience regionally and internationally, the optimism of partnering with a Brunei company is high.
"I am sure that there are possibilities," he added, "And the feedback, I think, is that they are interested."
As Brunei is looking for ways to protect its recovering marine life, "This is the moment when we can be involved. It isn't just a matter of introducing the law but knowing how to enforce it and taking measures to protect the marine areas."
Their services, he continued, can also assist in sustainable development, stressing that, "We cannot stop development but at the same time we cannot destroy the environment and therefore, we try to look for equilibrium and that is the objective."
On a broader scale, Trade Commissioner - Director of Singapore and Brunei based at the French Embassy in Singapore explained that the French companies' presence in Brunei does not only revolve around the oil and gas industry, but also aims to expand the trade to as far as high-end consumer products.
"It will be interesting for Bruneian businessmen to interact with French companies," said Frederic Rossi during an interview as he encouraged Bruneian business owners to consider attending the French based Maison & Objet Exhibition in March next year. The exhibition, which will be held in Singapore for the first time, will showcase a broader range of business opportunities, with over 80 French companies participating.
With Asean gaining momentum in the world of investments, he further elaborated that French companies, driven by Asean's six per cent growth rate, are looking to this part of the region to expand their trade.
Trading with Asean, he added, will be favourable to the French as the region is one with reliable and steady growth among the emerging areas in the world and the appeal, he said, also lies in the complexity of their approach in trade in Asean countries, as each country is in different stages of development, thus having distinctive structures and concepts.