INTERNATIONAL cooperation was top of the agenda for the Papua New Guinea government during October, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill talking up increased collaboration with the European Union (EU), South Korea, and India.

Mr O’Neill said the relationship between PNG and the EU was evolving from being based on development support to a partnership built on genuine, mutually beneficial trade and investment.

Martin Dihm, head of the European Union delegation in PNG, discussed the blossoming relationship with Mr O’Neill in October.

“More products that are made in PNG are being sold in European countries than ever before, and European technical expertise and equipment is being deployed throughout our resources sector,” Mr O’Neill said.

“We expect to see this business interaction to continue to expand as our government-to-government engagement with European countries creates greater opportunities.

“PNG and the EU have a bilateral trade agreement that enables free access products to the European market.

“This access to Europe is particularly beneficial for Papua New Guinea’s export of palm oil products as well as fisheries products.”

Mr O’Neill said the country had greatly appreciated the support from Europe in past decades as PNG worked to build its economy.

“The EU is PNG’s second largest development partner,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Through this partnership PNG has made a significant contribution to infrastructure expansion, skills and capacity development in rural areas, and the strengthening of the healthcare sector.

“Cooperation under the 10th European Union Development Fund has also facilitated rehabilitation of cocoa and coffee projects in Bougainville and East New Britain Province.”

South Korean ties

In a meeting with Korea’s ambassador to South Korea, Seong-Choon Kim, Mr O’Neill said he hoped to see increased cooperation in air travel, visa arrangements, fisheries exports and development programs.

“As Papua New Guinea continues to strengthen our economic, political and cultural engagement with Asia, South Korea is an important partner and friend in the region,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Our two countries have discussed the potential to establish an Air Services Agreement (ASA) that will deepen trade and cultural exchange.

“An ASA would further facilitate the expansion of Korean technical expertise in Papua New Guinea and enable the delivery of fresh food exports to the Korean market.

“Business and trade between our countries is a two-way street and our increased port capacity in Lae will provide a potential shipping hub for Korean products traveling to the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, and Indonesia.

“To further enhance trade and investment linkages, South Korea proposed the consideration of reciprocal arrangements for visa-free entry for businesspeople and officials.”

Mr O’Neill thanked the ambassador for the strong investment and development support South Korea had provided PNG.

“It is encouraging that more and more South Korean firms have in recent years shown interest in investment and trade in Papua New Guinea,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Investment from South Korea in fisheries projects in Lae is already worth more than K20 million and these are investments that will benefit people in both countries

“South Korea has also demonstrated how a developing country can transform into a leading global economy through effective planning, sound economic management and hard work.

“These are principles our government applies, that are evident in the current transformation we are seeing in the economy, jobs and living conditions in Papua New Guinea. “

Mr O’Neill said the two governments had discussed PNG’s future development support priority areas under the National Vision 2050.

“Papua New Guinea appreciates South Korea’s ongoing and generous partnership support,” Mr O’Neill said.

New Indian administration welcomed

Welcoming India’s new high commissioner to PNG Madhava Chandra to his post following the election of new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the countries’ cooperation on trade, investment and training was expanding.

“Around 600 Papua New Guineans have gained skills from development programs in India that are now delivering benefits to sectors that include agriculture, information technology and human resource management,” Mr O’Neill said

“India is a world leader in many of these areas and we look forward to expanding our partnership in this training.”

Mr O’Neill said more than 200 Indian professionals were working in PNG as medical practitioners, academics, accountants, IT and software professionals, human resource managers and missionaries.

“The contribution that Indian nationals make to business and economic development in Papua New Guinea is welcome and has the opportunity to expand,” he said.

“Investment by Indian companies has increased in recent years, especially in areas such as wholesale and retail activities, manufacturing and real estate, and has tremendous potential in the resources sector.

“India has also shown considerable interest to invest in the PNG LNG project,” Mr O’Neill said

“Investment in LNG would help India to increase supply to meet growing domestic energy demand that is needed to sustain its growing economy.

“Our two governments and business representatives will continue to discuss options to expand investment opportunities in Papua New Guinea’s resources sector.”

PNG’s main exports to India are copper, gold, tea, wood, and recycled aluminium, tin, iron and steel.