The third EU-PNG business, trade and investment Conference is a demonstration of the European Union’s commitment to strengthen business, trade and investment ties between PNG, member states of the EU-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Asia, Pacific region as a whole. This year’s edition attracted more than 700 participants from both the government and private sector in Europe and Papua New Guinea including participants from other Pacific islands countries. The conference held from 11-12 October 2022 at the APEC Haus in Port Moresby, was preceded by a European economic diplomacy week and ended with an international press visit to the provinces.
The business conference was highly valued for its practical approach including the opening speech by the Minister for International Trade Richard Maru who provided an overview of the PNG strategy to further deepen the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The presence of Minister Maru and his vice minister Kessy Sawang who is one of the two women MPs in the National Parliament, showed an unprecedented engagement from the PNG Government and a positive sign for future sustainability of the event which the European Union will cease to fund after next year’s edition.
The French Ambassador to PNG Guillaume Lemoine, Minister for International Trade Richard Maru and vice Minister for International Trade Kessy Sawang were guest speakers at the conference.
The European Union is the main importer of PNG agricultural products with special mention of premium products. In terms of PNG exports in the last 5 years, Europe stands third behind Asia and Oceania. In addition, the EU has committed more than EUR 100 million to support trade related stakeholders and agriculture in key commodities since 2016 and committed more than EUR 37 million regionally under the Pacific Regional and Integration Support (PRISE) Programme. Finally, the most beneficial Free Trade Agreement for Papua New Guinea is with the European Union namely the EPA signed in 2009.
This EPA allows all products from PNG duty free, quota free into the EU market including all tuna processed in PNG even if caught by non-PNG vessels. In the case of fisheries, the EPA has had a significant impact creating more than 12,000 jobs in PNG, mainly for women, and multiplied by 50 the value of PNG fish exports to the EU to over 200 million US dollars.
European Union’s support has targeted key PNG commodities like cocoa, fisheries, vanilla, coconut and kava. The EU further supported upskilling of key stakeholders in business, trade and investment including key PNG departments, agencies and laboratories.
The two-day conference conducted in parallel with a Business Fair including PNG SMEs from different provinces, provided an opportunity for participants to increase their networking prospects and likewise gave small medium enterprises (SMEs) an opportunity not only to display and sell their products but to find a potential market.
The two days discussions and target market analysis presentations generated great interest from participants including those who joined online. The level of participation showed that the interest was not only growing within PNG but in other EPA countries and generally from the Pacific island countries.
The main messages delivered during the conference were: the importance of strengthening trade and investment ties between the EU and PNG through the full utilisation of the Economic Partnership Agreement, skills development, global value chains, regional integration, good governance, social enterprises and corporate social responsibility and the importance of sound regulatory framework.
This two-day conference was completed by the European Economic Diplomacy Week supported by European companies in PNG, the business trade and investment technical workshop, and the press visit to Kokopo in East New Britain and Buka in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville provided an added value to the conference. The complementary events highlighted the EU's commitment to support the development of EU trade and investment in Papua New Guinea as well as promote sustainable economic development in the country.
The EU is already cosying in coordination with local authorities on the scope and organisation of the 4th conference to be held in 2023.