20 Jun 2023

PNG trade minister fed up with Canberra, looks toward China

12:29 pm on 20 June 2023
Papua New Guinea Minister of National Planning, Richard Maru, in Wellington, 1 May 2018.

Richard Maru Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua New Guinea's trade minister has complained that its trade deal with Australia has been skewed in the Aussies' favour for decades, and suggested the country will trade more with China.

Richard Maru said Beijing should be PNG's focus for trade and investment opportunities, because not enough was being done to assist PNG's agriculture exports to Australia.

Maru is particularly unhappy with agriculture exports, which account for less than two percent of PNG's exports to Australia, while minerals dominate.

"Enough is enough," he said. "Starting this year, we are moving on. We will partner with whatever country that will help us achieve that."

"We are friends to all and enemies to none. We are not interested in geopolitics. Our main priority is securing the future of our people."

Australia is supporting bolstering PNG's agriculture exports, with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier this year promising assistance to improve the bio-security regime that will enable farmers and producers to access international markets.

To deepen trade with China, a feasibility study is underway to assess the possibility of a free trade agreement (FTA).

While Australia is PNG's largest trade partner, China is a close second, coupled with PNG enjoying the largest trade surplus of any of its other trade partners.

Australia is also pursuing an FTA with Port Moresby, with its own feasibility study to be concluded this month.

Bougainville flexes muscles

The President of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville says his government will not allow foreign investors to breach its laws to exploit its people and resources.

Ishmael Toroama made the statement as the Bougainville Executive Council refused to grant a mining licence application for a joint-venture involving Wyndale Holdings and its local partners.

The joint venture wanted to mine in the Eivo/Torau areas as well as the Jaba River middle to lower tailings areas.

The Bougainville Government said in a statement that Wyndale is a private Australian company with links to Australian Nic Zuks who, it said, claims to have been issued mining licences by the autonomous government.

Toroama said the applicants failed to meet the requirements provided by the Bougainville Mining Act 2015.

He said the ABG won't entertain companies and individuals who use duplicitous means to exploit Bougainville's mineral resources.

The President also cautioned investors to be wary of being misled and that the ABG will not be held liable for losses incurred as a result of fraudulent misrepresentations.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs