MEMBERSHIP in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a 2013 trade and business deal were both raised by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill when he met with new Indonesian President Joko Widodo at his inauguration on 20 October.

Mr O’Neill flew to Jakarta to witness the inauguration before meeting with Mr Widodo at the presidential palace the next day.

Mr O’Neill asked the new President for Indonesia’s support in Papua New Guinea’s bid to become the next member of ASEAN and wasted no time in reminding Widodo of the memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on trade and business cooperation struck between the two nations last year.

In a brief discussion with the new President, Mr O’Neill detailed conversations he had with the former government in June 2013, where 11 MoUs were agreed on trade, investment, business, immigration, energy and mining sector development, and sporting and cultural exchanges.

Mr Widodo committed his government’s to continue to jointly implement the MoUs, which included cooperative efforts on addressing economic and border security issues.

Mr O’Neill later expressed in a statement his desire to strengthen relations between the nations. “Papua New Guinea highly values its relationship with Indonesia since formalising diplomatic relations soon after PNG gained independence in 1975,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Like his predecessor, I look forward to working closely with President Widodo during his tenure in office to further strengthen and enhance our existing relations.”

The two also discussed economic situation, development and technical cooperation and regional and international issues.

Mr O’Neill reaffirmed PNG’s commitment to working with “the gateway to the Asian region” and said the countries would work together in PNG’s expansion into Asia.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit, to be held in PNG in 2018, was also on the agenda, with Mr O’Neill thanking Widodo for Indonesia’s continued support.

Mr O’Neill said Indonesia would provide security and logistics for the summit.

“Indonesia remains a great supporter of PNG’s intention to host this major regional event in 2018,” Mr O’Neill said.

The new President expressed his interest in PNG’s resources sector, inquiring about current Indonesian projects taking place domestically, and Mr O’Neill explained that PNG remained open for business.

“Indonesian investment in PNG is rapidly expanding in trade and investment, mining, retail and agriculture and there is potential for more growth in other vital areas,” he said

Mr O’Neill thanked the President for allowing him to be “among the first leaders to meet with him on the occasion of his first day at work in office” and extended an invitation for him to visit PNG.

“Overall, President Widodo remained content and assuring that the bilateral relations would continue from where his predecessor left,” he said.

Mr O’Neill also acknowledged the work of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in building the PNG-Indonesia relationship.