PORT Moresby’s hosting of the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit has been described by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill as a “coming of age” moment for Papua New Guinea.

The city will play host to the leaders of the world’s biggest economies, including the United States, China and Russia, in what will be the biggest event ever held in the country – and one described by the PNG APEC secretariat as the “one chance to change the world’s perception of PNG”.

APEC secretariat Lahui Ako announced in November that the event would see Port Moresby and Lae “transformed” to suit international standards.

“These are world leaders coming to Papua New Guinea, they are not just ordinary people,” Mr Ako said.

“We are talking about prime ministers and presidents of powerful nations coming together to our shores and this is why we have to prepare now and we have been doing just that,” Mr Ako said.

Mr Ako said in the announcement that planning was “on track despite three more years and many more things on the checklist”.

Hosting of the event was secured by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in the final hours of an APEC meeting in Bali in early October.

“The APEC nations account for close to half the world’s trade and commerce,” Mr O’Neill said after the bid was secured.

“By hosting the 2018 leaders’ summit we will have the unique and historic opportunity to showcase our rich culture, our robust democracy, and the tremendous trade and investment opportunities we offer.”

“We are building infrastructure so we can serve the greater Asia-Pacific community. It is important that we continue to provide the leadership that is required of us in the Pacific.”

Papua New Guinea held two smaller APEC conferences in November, with an energy working group meeting and a capacity building workshop on trade and investment held concurrently in Port Moresby.

“APEC is a priority for Papua New Guinea as it expands export opportunities, provides us with better access to technical expertise to help our businesses and government agencies, and ultimately leads to job creation,” Mr O’Neill said of the meetings.

“We welcome the delegates who are coming from each of APEC’s 21 member economies, most of whom are visiting Papua New Guinea for the first time.”

The Prime Minister said the nation will gain significantly from increased engagement through APEC in coming years

“Often people think APEC is one meeting each year, but APEC is much bigger than that and will provide a significant boost to our economy through to our increased involvement,” he said.

“Between now and the end of 2018 we will host up to 200 APEC meetings that will cover a range of important sectors for the national economy.”

Mr O’Neill ended his attendance at November’s Beijing APEC Business Advisory Council assembly by meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping where the two leaders discussed strengthening relations, LNG supply and other trade matters.

“Papua New Guinea and China have a warm relationship and we expect this will only continue to strengthen,” Mr O’Neill said after the meeting.