PHASE two of a trade related assistance program (TRA 2) funded by the European Union to Papua New Guinea is underway, with the support of the PNG Department of Trade, Commerce and Industry.

The program is designed to help strengthen the capacity of the Department to develop balanced, beneficial trade policies in consultation with the private sector and civil society which may help the country.

Worth €6.7 million or K20 million, TRA 2 has three components – to support to institutional reform and strengthening of trade institutions; National Trade Policy and international trade agenda development and trade facilitation support.

A National Launch workshop, held at Port Moresby’s Gateway Hotel in February, included consultations with various agencies to help develop the work program for the first year of the three-year implementation period.

In an announcement, the Department said the program was designed to help PNG benefit from the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) previously signed between the two bodies.

“It is estimated that the iEPA significantly contributed to the creation of over 40,000 jobs in the fisheries sector alone,” the department said.

“This is only as an intermediate step towards extending the benefits beyond fisheries, in particular to offer opportunities and help income and job generation in sustainable agriculture and forestry.”

The program will also support PNG Customs to deal even better with its various functions and tasks to ensure the smooth flow of trade, the department said.

This portion of the program was already underway, with an EU-delivered capacity building training session delivered in early December.

The training was designed to help Customs officials correctly identify PNG produce for export to the EU under the terms of iEPA.

Papua New Guinea obtains 100 per cent free market access to the European Union for all its products under the deal, the idea being that free market access helps products “made in PNG” to find a lucrative market.

In force since 2011, the agreement has resulted already in an increase of PNG exports to the EU to €987 million in 2012, most of which is non-minerals exports (fisheries and marine resources, coffee, cocoa, tea, vegetable oils, spices and rubber) and in the creation of some 40,000 jobs in PNG in the fisheries sector alone.

The EU has become Papua New Guinea’s second export market, accounting for 9.2% of total exports.

With PNG Customs certifying the origin of these products, the training session aimed to strengthen these systems in what the EU said was in PNG’s national interest.

The training also fostered closer collaboration between PNG Customs and the National Fisheries Authority, which also took part in this exercise.

One outcome has been that PNG customs officials have been made better aware of the requirements concerning the export of frozen fish, for which exporters need to comply fully with the procedures and exporters must follow the applicable declarations and certificates.

This will not only guarantee that benefits of PNG fish accrues to Papua New Guinea but also help better control catches and fish stock conservation in PNG waters, the EU said.