U.S. exporters to Brunei face strong competition from producers in China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, especially when marketing food and agricultural products. As a former British protectorate, Brunei has deep trade connections and familiarity with the UK and Commonwealth nations and their products. However, the market is diversifying.
To differentiate themselves from local and third country competitors, U.S. firms should emphasize their strengths in quality, innovation, technology enhancements, and customer service. Bruneian customers have come to expect higher quality products from U.S. companies. Customers may choose U.S. products and services on the basis of “value for money,” not solely on cost factors.
Brunei’s government is eager to increase FDI as it seeks to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons. BEDB has identified several key industry clusters it plans to develop within the export-oriented manufacturing and services sectors, including pharmaceuticals, food, petrochemicals, renewable energy, ICT, and higher education. Foreign firms are often encouraged to bid for projects.
When marketing general consumer goods, U.S companies should keep in mind the cultural norms and standards of the Bruneian population. For example, most of the population is Muslim, which means that food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics must be certified halal (meaning lawful and permissible to use/consume under Islamic law) in order to appeal to a larger market. Brunei’s definition of halal is, in some cases, distinct from other Muslim-majority countries. Information about Brunei’s halal certification process can be found on the Brunei Religious Council’s website.
It is advisable to conduct research on the possible implications of advertising or promotional activities before initiating them in Brunei. Bruneians are very active on social networks, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, and these can be important marketing tools as customers often rely more on these social networks for information on businesses than they do on traditional marketing sources.
Selling techniques vary according to the industry or the product involved, but they are comparable to the techniques used in any other sophisticated market. To gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, U.S. firms should develop and maintain good customer relationships. In-person meetings with key contacts in the government and the private sector can be helpful in developing and maintaining these relationships. Industry events, trade shows, and product expos are also common and provide good opportunities to reach customers and potential business partners. Bruneian customers flock to coupons, VIP discount cards, and special deals.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Businesses can easily purchase advertising space in Brunei’s newspapers. There are two local newspapers, the Borneo Bulletin (English) and Media Permata (Malay). Both newspapers have extensive circulation and online versions. Daily newspapers in English, Malay, and Chinese from the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore are also widely read. Online local news media outlets such as The Scoop and The Bruneian also offer advertising space on their websites.
TV promotions can be made via the local broadcast media which is operated by government-owned Radio Television Brunei. Foreign TV stations are available via cable network. Radio Television Brunei also operates 5 radio networks and broadcasts on multiple frequencies. Two other radio broadcasts stations is Kristal FM and the British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS).
Local advertising companies and promotion service agencies are also available in the country.
Bruneians enjoy a high per capita income, but that includes both very wealthy residents as well as families with significant personal debt and depend on government subsidies for fuel, housing, and education. There exists a niche market for higher-end products and services, but shoppers are also price-conscious regarding daily purchases. Products of other nations are priced competitively. Bruneians increasingly use social media to spot deals and specials at stores, restaurants, and online shops. U.S. exporters should generate a price survey of competitor products and services from both domestic and international firms.
Brunei currently does not charge any sales tax, value-added tax, or goods and services tax. Hotel and rest and recreation facilities may charge up to a 10 percent service fee. They may also charge gratuity.
Brunei instituted the Price Control Act (Cap 142) administered by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics. Maximum prices for selected goods, such as those categorized as necessities (motor vehicles, infant milk powder, and cigarettes), may be fixed by the price controller for consumer protection purposes.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Bruneian customers, both corporate and individual, expect high-quality sales service and after-sale customer support like many other customers in markets worldwide. Bruneian customers generally have greater confidence in U.S. suppliers’ service and support, due to their well-trained service and support teams. An increasing number of Bruneian buyers would prefer to invest in higher-quality products to save on expensive maintenance or replacement costs following warranty expirations.
Local Professional Services
The legal sector is governed under the Legal Profession Act (CAP.132 of Laws of Brunei). Section 4 of the act provides the Chief Justice with the authority to admit a qualified individual as an advocate and solicitor. An application by a qualified person for admission is made by written request to the Chief Justice at the office of the Chief Registrar. The Chief Registrar issues the license and maintains the advocate and solicitor’s name on the roll. Law firms do not need to obtain a separate license to practice. A list of law firms can be found in the Brunei Law Society website.
The Attorney General
The Law Building Bandar Seri Begawan
BA 1910, Brunei Darussalam
Phone: (673)-223-1200; (673)-224-4872
Principal Business Associations
Provide references to the principal business associations, indicating which accept U.S. company members. Describe the primary roles of those associations, and to what extent they influence government actions.
There are four major chambers of commerce in Brunei:
Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry/National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Brunei Darussalam International Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Indian Chamber of Commerce
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
Provide information on any manufacturing sectors or services where only citizens or a sub-set of the population in that country can own or sell.
There are generally no limitations on the sale of U.S. products and services in Brunei.