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Pictured: Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru and Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce, Mr. Tang Wenhong (Supplied Image)

China is fast becoming Papua New Guinea’s most important trading partner, says the Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru.  

Minister Maru made this statement after his two-hour meeting with the Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce, Mr. Tang Wenhong in Port Moresby yesterday evening.

“We are determined to grow and deepen our relationship with China and anchor it through a Free Trade Agreement between PNG and China if our joint feasibility study which will be completed by July this year confirms that it is viable and in our national interest to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with China. Australia recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with China, but it took Australia over 10 years to negotiate and finalize and sign their Free Trade Agreement. We have started the process with PNG advancing its K1 million last year to commence the joint study and we are happy that China will make their K1 million available so we can complete the study in July,” said Minister Maru.

 “Whilst we acknowledge Australia for being the biggest investor in PNG with investment valued at over AU$24.8 billion, they hardly buy from us. PNG’s exports to Australia in 2022 stood AU$1.6 billion with over 98% being gold and other precious metals whilst Australia’s exports to PNG stood at AU$95.9 million. Trade has been skewed in Australia’s favor for decades. Meanwhile, for the past five years, trade between PNG and China has been in favor of PNG with PNG recoding surplus balance of trade from 2017-2021. In 2020, PNG exported K6.7 billion, imported K2.6 billion and has a trade surplus of K4.1 billion.  China has been ranked 3rd as top export destination for PNG’s merchandise and also ranked 2nd as top import source for PNG. This indicates that trade with China is economical. We have realized that our future in terms of exports lies with China. If both Australia and New Zealand have Free Trade Agreements with China and they are the biggest export markets for these two countries, we must also move in this direction.” He added.

 “After PNG signed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2018, PNG became China’s largest trading partner, investment destination and project contacting market in the region. China aided projects such as roads, bridges, hydropower stations, and have made important contribution to the economic development and people’s livelihood. China’s growing economy coupled with soaring domestic demands stimulated by its 1.41 billion people positions the country as an important source of global demand, hence we are keen to strengthen and deepen our relationship with China anchored on trade and investment. I stressed to Minister Wenhong that we are looking for large Chinese investors in invest in our Special Economic Zones in order to fast track the growth of our economy. Our economy will not grow, jobs will not grow, and we will not move forward if we do not have investments.” The minister further stated.

 “I also welcome the three flights coming to PNG from China weekly. This will bring a lot of investors and tourists to come from China to PNG. This is good news. But we must have the products like first-class hotels, and facilities like casino and others to attract the 100 million Chinese tourists to also consider PNG an attractive tourism destination. China is also inviting us to attend their China Import and Export Fair so we can go and market our products in China. We will be working very closely with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to secure export markets for our coffee, cocoa, fish, and other products.” He said.

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