Jul 22, 2013

PNG chamber supports regional business

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's recent visit has established his government's keen interest to develop the broad base for the PNG economy.

Joined by his new trade and immigration ministers, Mr Rudd praised PNG's links with Indonesia and pointed to strong support for a regional approach to trade matters.

Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program presenter Geraldine Coutts speaks to David Conn head of the Chamber of Commerce in Port Moresby.

CONN: Obviously I think these visits, albeit a flash visit, are a good affirmation of the relationship. Yeah, it was a couple of snippets in there, it's a quick visit, generally, yeah I think the reaction to it was good.
COUTTS: But what specifically were you talking about the LNG project, the projects that are already in mind or is there sort of smaller projects that you're talking about?
CONN: I think that's, that's something that Prime Minister Rudd threw fairly clearly into his Trade Minister, Richard Marles, area and said look Richard, there's work for you to do. Clearly, there's a lot of continuation LNG, but I think Australia realises the maturing of that relationship between the countries, the broad base of the PNG economy has what this government's very keen to develop and Australia I think would be quite challenged to be able to assist Papua New Guinea in that SME sector, that's so vitally needed.
 COUTTS: Now, while Richard Marles is new to the portfolio, he's not a stranger to the region - so was he able to bring much to the table? Was there much substance of deals that you could do in the future?
CONN: I mean I think it was basically when Richard was obviously very popular in certain quarters. I don't know who he spoke to. He certainly didn't speak to us, one of the biggest Chambers in the country I guess. So that's something we need to look forward to. But I mean in terms of trade negotiations, what can you achieve in a one-day flash visit.
COUTTS: All right. So will there be more visits like this one in the future? Is it necessary?
CONN: Oh, it's definitely necessary. I think PNG expects it, being our closest neighbour and I think the Australian government would make an error by not making these regular visits and for goodness sake, why not? I mean, Cairns, it's an hour to fly across. It's something we can, because of the relationship, every couple of months to the far north of Australia and there's a lot of links already between the far north of Australia and PNG. I think it's important Rudd said look, the people of Australia decide to re-elect me, I'll be back and I'm sure he will be and it'll be very early on its agenda.
COUTTS: All right. Now, PNG , of course, has got regional links through the MSG and Indonesia. Is Australia looking to get in on that as well?
CONN: Yeah, and I think that for me personally was probably one of the most sailent points that Prime Minister Rudd made. He said look, we can work on an economic triangle with Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and, of course, PNG has just had one of the biggest trade delegations ever sent overseas, the first in 27 years to Indonesia. So that's the sort of thing that rang our bells - we were very interested in that, because obviously, with an economy like Indonesia, sitting to the west of us, we'd have to say it's probably an even cheaper economy for PNG to access. That sort of comment was very welcome I think and ties in very much with PNG's not necessarily 'look north policy' but also to look to all areas to help improve, improve its economy and import less cost basically.

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