The 34th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo with the theme “APEC 2018: Achievements and Opportunities” was held at the Royal International Convention Centre, Brisbane, from 30 April to 2 May 2018. The event was attended by 402 delegates, speakers, trade booth exhibitors and guests. The Trade Expo comprised 40 booths.
Government key note addresses were delivered by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon Peter O’Neill CMG, MP, and the Australian Assistant Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment, the Hon Mark Coulton MP representing the Australian Prime Minister.
Prime Minister O’Neill noted that the Australia Papua New Guinea relationship is enduring and constant with Australia being the largest foreign investor in Papua New Guinea underpinned by a strong bilateral trading relationship.
The Prime Minister said Papua New Guinea Government is committed to try to ensure a business environment which is friendly for business and foreign investment. He said the economic fundamentals of Papua New Guinea are sound, and that its carefully managed debt is a tool for economic management and future growth including through infrastructure development, with more than half the Government’s debt being domestic debt.
For the future the government wished to empower the agriculture and tourism sectors to create greater economic diversity.
The Prime Minister committed that the Papua New Guinea Government will ensure that the letter of the Bougainville Peace Agreement will be observed, and stated the importance of maintaining a unified and harmonious country.
The Prime Minister articulated that hosting of APEC 2018 is a monumental achievement for Papua New Guinea, and provides an opportunity for the country to demonstrate its ability to contribute to regional economic growth.
He invited the attendance of Australian company CEOs at the APEC CEO’s Summit which is held alongside the APEC Leaders Meeting in November.
Australian Assistant Minister Coulton said Australia was a strong supporter of Papua New Guinea’s infrastructure development including through the Australian development assistance program which includes work in a wide range of other sectors.
He detailed a range of bilateral consultative mechanisms including the inaugural Economic Co-operation Dialogue.
Dr Allan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat in Singapore, delivered the Henry Kila Memorial Address in which he outlined the history of APEC, its remarkable success as the largest economic and trading block in the world operating by consensus and without any enforceable legal framework, and outlined some of the current dynamics at play in the disrupted global trading environment approaching APEC 2018.
Sir Charles Lepani, Chairman of the PNG APEC 2018 Authority, PNG Ambassador to APEC Ivan Pomaleu, and David Toua, Chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council, briefed Forum delegates on activities and preparations being undertaken throughout 2018 culminating in the APEC Leaders Meeting and the APEC CEO’s Summit in November 2018.
The Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon Rimbink Pato OBE, reaffirmed the importance of international trade and investment to growing Papua New Guinea’s domestic economy and creating opportunities for the country’s young people. He thanked international partners for their support to Papua New Guinea following the devastating February 2018 earthquake, noting particularly the outstanding support provided by private sector companies in the relief efforts.
The Hon Wera Mori MP, Papua New Guinea Minister for Commerce and Industry outlined his vision for the growth in the MSME with particular focus on agriculture including the development of bilateral quarantine protocols to facilitate exports. Other speakers in this session emphasised the importance of resolving land title issues to better enable access to finance for business growth, and also the important role played by large companies including foreign investors in creating employment and small business opportunities for Papua New Guineans.
The importance of effective education and skills training was highlighted by a Deloitte UNDP study which revealed that 83% of businesses surveyed reported that a major impediment to effective labour hiring is a lack of effective skills in the workforce, an issue which needs to be addressed through greater emphasis on matching education and training to workforce needs.
Delegates were briefed on developments in power and telecommunications, including the Australia-Papua New Guinea undersea cable project scheduled for completion in late 2019.
Presentations on agriculture highlighted innovative work being done by business for agricultural import substitution. Development of a stronger formal agriculture sector is crucial to creating diversity and sustainability in the Papua New Guinea economy.
Expert presentations briefed delegates on challenges for provision of effective health care in public health in Papua New Guinea, including highlighting the need for business to financially commit to supporting Business for Health in its work to ameliorate the impact on business and the community of Tuberculosis.
Bougainville has many opportunities for collaboration between businesses in Papua New Guinea and Australia especially in agriculture and tourism, and business is encouraged to explore opportunities for working with Bougainville business for growth and sustainability.
Papua New Guinea investors looking to diversify their investment portfolios to include overseas investment were encouraged to seek are opportunities for connecting into Australia’s Northern Australia Development program.
KTF, Business for Development, and ABV detailed their programs in Papua New Guinea as examples of the value of work done by NGOs in supporting communities and the economy through developing capability and transferring skills and knowledge.
Papua New Guinea’s resources sector continues to underpin its economy. Delegates were briefed on the range of policy issues currently causing concern to the resources sector which may potentially have a negative impact on future investment decisions, and urged the Papua New Guinea Government to consult widely on planned policy changes. Specific briefings were provided on the PNG LNG, the Nautilus undersea mining project and the Wafi Golpi project.
The 35th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum will be held at the Hilton Hotel, Port Moresby in May 2019.