Vila Times

Pacific countries should consider free trade within the region: PNG’s PM

Pacific countries should consider free trade within the region: PNG’s PM
Pacific countries should consider free trade within the region: PNG’s PM
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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill is optimistic that despite challenges facing the global economic environment, Pacific countries can work together to create a free and more open trading environment within the region.

The onus, he said, lies with Fiji and Papua New Guinea to take the lead, Pacnews reports.

“While larger global powers engage in hostilities, impose tariffs and abandon established rules – we must work closer together and build on our collective strengths. We are all members of important global trade forums such as the World Trade Organisation, and we have collective strength in other forums. This includes MSG, the Pacific Islands Forum, the ACP and the Commonwealth, said PM O’Neill while addressing the Fiji-PNG Business Council lunch in Suva.

He said Pacific countries have strength in numbers and they need to use this to their advantage.

“At a regional and sub-regional level, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are working well to expand trade and investment. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the success of working together is to refer to the level of PNG business investment in Fiji in recent years – and Fiji investment in Papua New Guinea.

“The level of investment is increasing. I am proud of the substantial investment the business sectors are making into each of our economies. Whether it is in banking, finance, insurance, tourism and hospitality, agriculture, SME businesses or communications – our investment is substantial, and it is growing.

“In return, we welcome increased Fiji business interest investing in Papua New Guinea – in agriculture, processing, our tourism sector, and communications in particular. The level of two-way trade between our countries has not peaked. It is far from reaching its full potential, said O’Neill.

To take advantage of this increased business interest, the PNG leader extended an invitation to more Fijian businesses to invest in his country and take advantage of the positive changes taking place.

“Oil and gas prices have bounced back, we are recovering from the drought – and the fundamentals of our economy remain strong. Even when faced with very harsh global headwinds – the economy of Papua New Guinea has continued to maintain positive economic growth, said PM O’Neill while addressing the Fiji-PNG Business Council lunch in Suva Monday.

He said the last seven years, government has invested heavily in strengthening the foundations of the Papua New Guinea economy – built more new roads, more ports and airports, and refurbished more public infrastructure.

“In fact, there is an infrastructure boom taking place in Papua New Guinea. This is deliberate and is aimed at strengthening the supply chains and infrastructure that is needed to grow our economies.

The PNG leader who was on an official State Visit to Fiji said there is also great potential in joint ventures and partnership between the two countries private sector.

“In Papua New Guinea we will always have mining, and oil and gas resources as an anchor for our economy. But we are broadening and diversifying our economic base. We can learn from your vast experience and success in areas such as tourism and hospitality – which today underpins Fiji’s growth, and future, in so many tangible ways.

PM O’Neill has invited Fijian professionals in tourism and hospitality to work together to expand his nation’s tourism sector.

He identified the SME (small and medium enterprise) sector as a high priority for both Governments.

“For Papua New Guinea, our agricultural base also remains a real key to our future diversified growth. We have to share ideas between our business communities and talk between our Governments. There is no doubt – that Government does not have all of the answers. Government relies on business to tell us what you need, to tell us how Government can legislate and regulate to create healthier business environments. Our people-to-people relationships add value and mutual benefit to our growing business, trade and investment links, said PM O’Neill.