Papua New Guinea’s economic, trade and cultural relations with Asia are set to strengthen further following the Prime Minister’s visit to China in recent days.
The Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, attended the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday and Saturday, and held bilateral meetings with China’s President and other senior Leaders.
“China is the second largest economy in the world and is investing heavily to further increase trade in the Asia-Pacific, which includes support to enhance efficiencies in our economy,” the Prime Minister said after returning from China,” The Prime Minister said.
Belt and Road Initiative
In relation to the Belt and Road Initiative, the Prime Minister heighted the tangible results that are being delivered, that through China’s leadership, will further drive regional trade and investment forward.
“The core countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative account for more than 30 per cent of global GDP, and 62 per cent of the world’s population.
“This is a very big market and through better transport systems and supply chains, it offers great opportunities for our food producers and other SMEs.”
The Prime Minister said the Belt and Road Forum was well-attended by Leaders from around the world, highlighting the global significance of the initiative.
“The Belt and Road concept has been positively received, and the forum was attended by 159 countries and organisation delegations, including 37 Heads of Government, as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
“Papua New Guinea was the only Pacific Island Nation invited to attend at a Leader’s level, and we have ensured that we shared Pacific perspectives on a range of critical issues.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at delivering sustainable economic growth and lifting living standards, reducing poverty, enhancing job creation and creating business opportunities.
“This initiative connects countries through hard infrastructure with the building of roads, bridges, airports and ports.
“This is underpinned through soft infrastructure such as logistics technical capacity building and skills sharing, access to finance markets at concessional rates, and cultural exchange through education and tourism.
“At a working level this creates opportunities in Papua New Guinea to properly enter the digital economy through better access to technology that will improve production and efficiency.
“This includes the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, automation and Financial Technology (FinTech).
“At the same time, where workers might be displaced by changing technologies, we will have support to provide fresh skills for new job opportunities.”
Bilateral Meetings with President Xi and Premier Li
The Prime Minister said in his meetings with President Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang, it was clear from both Leaders that the level of the country-to-country relationship extremely strong.
“Following his significant visit to Papua New Guinea last year for a State Visit and the APEC Summit, President Xi made the point that our bilateral relationship is the best that it has been in our history.
“We have now elevated our engagement to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
“What this means is for Papua New Guinea is closer planning on trade and development objectives, and better access to support mechanisms that will strengthen our economic sectors.”
The Prime Minister said the bottom-line is that the global economy has changed significantly, and Papua New Guinea must work with the new system.
“No country can be successful if they face the global economy alone,” PM O’Neill said.
“We must work with like-minded countries, and put differences aside to work together for our collective benefit.
“We cannot be inward-looking, we have to take advantage of these markets in China and throughout Asia that are being made available to us.
“We need to stop stereotyping how trade works and accept that different development models are available to us today that better suit our economic situation.
“China developed into a large world economy, and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in 40 years. Countries like South Korea and Singapore, with no natural resources, have done the same, and so can Papua New Guinea.
“This does not mean we change direction with our other close trading partners and economic forums.
“In fact we must continue to strengthen these relationships, and use capacity building through the Belt and Road Initiative to increase trade with these countries also.
“We must continue to engage closely with other organisations such as the Pacific islands Forum and APEC.
“We can draw our experience from the Belt and Road Initiative into these forums for policy synergies that better enhance trade and investment.
“What all this comes down to us taking advantage of opportunity and changing mindsets in how we engage with global partners, and this will lead to enhanced development.”