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Brunei seeks Swiss financial know-how

Couchepin (middle) met the Bruneian sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah (right), on Saturday


Switzerland's finance minister, Pascal Couchepin, has held talks with economic leaders in Brunei to discuss the Sultanate's desired position as an international financial centre for the Muslim world.

Couchepin became Switzerland's first minister ever to visit Brunei during his trip on Saturday.

He was due to return to Singapore on Sunday, where he has been conducting "exploratory talks" on a free trade agreement between the Asian city-state and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

At a meeting with Brunei's industry minister, Abdul Rahman bin Mohamed Taib, Couchepin said Switzerland would offer advice and financial "know-how" to the Sultanate, in its bid to become a financial centre.

Couchepin also invited Brunei's ruling sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, to Switzerland for an official visit.

Brunei, whose economy is mainly dependent on oil production, has been seeking to diversify its financial markets, most notably by becoming a monetary hub for Asian and Muslim nations.

The Sultanate has also been trying to build up its "ecological tourism" industry, but last spring's hostage-taking of a group of tourists, by Philippine rebels in the region, has kept many foreigners away.

On Sunday, Couchepin is expected to meet Singapore's vice president, Goh Chok Tong, to discuss Asia's financial standing in the world.

swissinfo with agencies


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