PNG and China approach free trade deal

2:09 pm on 16 April 2018

Papua New Guinea's foreign minister has had talks with China about establishing a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Papua New Guinea foreign minister Rimbink Pato.

Looking to China: Papua New Guinea's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Rimbink Pato has just completed a visit to Beijing where he had discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

Mr Pato has told PNG media that as a result of their talks, China has agreed to pursue a free trade deal and will do a feasibility study.

Plans for the feasibility study, and a related Memorandum of Understanding are expected to be signed later this year between the two governments.

This would take place in November when China's president Xi Jinping visits PNG for the APEC leader's summit.

According to Mr Pato, Minister Wang Yi would travel to PNG in October to prepare for the signing.

In addition to the free trade idea, the two foreign ministers discussed a number of matters including visa fee waiver for government officials and diplomats in China and PNG.

Mr Pato also pushed Beijing on whether it could soon facilitate Air Niugini's direct flights into Shanghai.

Furthermore, China has reportedly signed off on China's support to PNG for its hosting of the APEC leader's summit.

The terms of this ongoing support remain unclear, but China has already invested significantly towards infrastructure projects which PNG will rely on when APEC leaders visit.

Chief among these projects is PNG's new International Convention Centre in Port Moresby which Beijing reportedly contributed US$ 27-million towards the construction of.

The convention centre was officially opened last week by PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill who paid tribute to the country's growing relationship with China.

PNG’s International Convention Centre in Port Moresby.

PNG’s International Convention Centre in Port Moresby. Photo: PNG PM Media Office

He said PNG was working with China in reducing trade barriers and promoting investment between the two countries.

"The recent re-election of President Xi Jinping is continuing to enhance this great era of development and growth - not only in the Asia Pacific region, but globally," Mr O'Neill said.

"We have similar views about development, as our people need to move from lower income earning into better incomes and the middle class and to experience real prosperity."

"The One Belt - One Road initiative that is being implemented by President Xi Jinping will again deliver very clear benefits and open up new markets and opportunities especially for our agricultural produce."

Mr O'Neill said that the Chinese-built infrastructure in PNG, also including new roading projects, would benefit Papua New Guineans for many decades.

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