PNG calls for more trade links with South Pacific

PAPUA New Guinea yesterday called on Singapore and other Asian countries to strengthen economic links with the PNG and the South Pacific.

“The potential for trade and investment between the South Pacific and Asia is enormous,” PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday.

“We can build bridges across the Pacific to Asia from greater trade.”

He was on a one-day visit to open his country’s High Commission in Singapore. The visit came at the end of a three-week tour of Asia during which he visited China and Hongkong.

He also took part in the recent Asean Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, where PNG is an observer.

Sir Julius, who is also PNG’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, said his country had adopted a “Look North” policy in response to East Asia’s booming economies.

“By the turn of the century, there will be 500 million people in the northern crescent,” he said, pointing to the region encompassing Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hongkong and the Philippines. “PNG can be swamped or swallowed by all these economic dragons.”

Currently, 40 per cent of the PNG’s trade is with countries in Asia, especially Japan and South Korea. Singapore is one of its bigger Asean trade partners, helped by agreements such as the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty.

But there was scope for greater economic co-operation, he said.

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