Australian Foreign Afairs Minister Julie bishop.

Australian Foreign Afairs Minister Julie bishop.

BOLSTERING economic and business ties with Papua New Guinea was high on Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s agenda when she visited Port Moresby in early February.

Also of priority for discussions with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato was the country’s important role in combatting people smuggling in the region, its leadership in supporting Fiji’s elections and its commitment to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in 2018.

The visit built on the successful Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum held last December, where both countries renewed their shared commitment to an economic and strategic partnership.

Australia is PNG’s largest trading partner and Australian investment in the country is worth more than A$19 billion – almost equal to Australia’s investment in China.

The ministers were also due to discuss the investment of Australian aid in PNG projects.

Building on Australia’s commitment to women’s empowerment in the Pacific, Ms Bishop joined a roundtable discussion in Port Moresby about opportunities for PNG women in business and public life.

In conjunction with the event, Ms Bishop said the federal government would provide A$1 million over three years for the Australia-PNG Network that will be hosted by Australia’s Lowy Institute and PNG partner organisations.

This initiative, agreed at the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum last December, is a key element of plans to strengthen economic and social ties between our two countries.

It will encourage stronger relationships between Australia’s and PNG’s businesses, entrepreneurs and students.

The partner organisations will have strong links across business, civil society and academia in both Australia and PNG.

The Network will include an interactive online hub to foster new partnerships and to share knowledge and experience, using social media channels to maximise its reach.

The Network will help to ensure that other existing arrangements such as the Emerging Leaders’ Dialogue, scholarships, volunteering and twinning initiatives are connected and complementary.