Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates to Strengthen Trade and Economic Relations

By: PNG Business News May 13, 2024

The Minister for International Trade and Investment, Hon. Richard Maru expressed great satisfaction with the outcome of his bilateral meeting with the Minister for Foreign Trade of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi. The bilateral meeting was held on the margins of the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) Congress, which is being hosted in Abu Dhabi, UAE from May 7-9, 2024.

Minister Maru attended the 13th Edition of the AIM Congress upon invitation by his colleague Minister, His Excellency, Dr. Zeyoudi. The conference attracted 175 countries and 12,000 plus participants ranging from both public and private sectors.

Whilst expressing satisfaction on the general outcome of the AIM Congress which he participated in through penal discussions, Minister Maru said his discussion with his counterpart Trade Minister of the UAE for deeper trade and economic relations between the two countries was a good outcome for the country.

Minister Maru said: “The UAE private sector is interested in expanding and deepening the bilateral trade and investment opportunities between the UAE and Papua New Guinea (PNG), however, the UAE Trade Minister in our bilateral meeting said that trade and investment relationship between our two countries can only happen following the negotiation of four important agreements.”

Dr. Zeyoudi proposed that the following agreements be negotiated and formalized between PNG and the UAE:

  1. Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA);
  2. Double Taxation Agreement;
  3. Air Services Agreement; and
  4. A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)

Both Ministers agreed for both countries to work towards signing at least three agreements which are IPPA, the Double Tax Agreement, and the Air Services Agreement before December 2024.

“Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) will work on the IPPA, International Revenue Commission (IRC) will work on the Double Tax Agreement, the Department of Transport and Civil Aviation will work on the Air Service Agreement between PNG and the UAE, and the Department of Foreign Affairs will play the coordinating role. The UAE already have Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with other countries like the Philippines and Malaysia and they are willing to share with us their template for us to use to begin the negotiations leading to the signing of the CEPA,” said Minister Maru.

“Whilst NEC has approved to open a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, this will be fruitless when we do not have a trade and investment relationship between our two countries to enable foreign direct investment coming into PNG from UAE and our exports going to the UAE market. I want to call on the Department of Foreign Affairs to take the lead in working closely with the relevant agencies and their Ministers to have the three agreements negotiated and formalized before the end this year. There are already 22 UAE companies who have registered their interest to invest in PNG and to trade with PNG as a result of connections made during the Expo in Dubai in 2022. However, these companies cannot progress their interest without these critical agreements in place, hence, the UAE Government is keen to have these agreements signed and in place by December 2024,” said Minister Maru.

Minister Maru further stated: “The GDP of UAE was over USD700 billion by the end of 2023 whilst PNG’s was USD39 billion. As a mainstay to the economy, oil exports now account for about 30 percent of total GDP with the UAE diversifying its economy by launching a diversification and liberalization program to reduce reliance on oil and transform its economy from a conventional, labor-intensive economy to one based on knowledge, technology, and skilled labor. The federal and individual Emirate Governments have invested heavily in sectors such as aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce, and telecommunications. They have also invested heavily in security making UAE one of the safest countries in the world with over 80 per cent of the total population being expatriates.”

“The UAE is looking at diversifying their investment globally and PNG needs to take the opportunity to attract UAE investments, particularly in the non-extractive sector. Trade between the two countries has the potential to expand with the UAE particularly interested to invest in the sectors of manufacturing, fisheries, forestry, and agriculture, and also in health technology, and green energy projects like solar. However, the UAE investors must feel secure and there must be maximum return for their investments, hence, the agreements proposed by the UAE Trade Minister must be negotiated and agreed on to give confidence to the investors. The UAE is an economic leader in the Arab countries and PNG’s exports to the UAE market will be a steppingstone into the Arab market as the UAE offers an access point to the global markets and has effective supply and value chain networks,” said Minister Maru.

Minister Maru added: “The UAE is willing to enter into a relationship with PNG anchored on trade and investment; the onus is now on us to show our commitment by fast tracking the negotiations on the four agreements proposed by the UAE Trade Minister which will set the foundation for us to open our diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi.”

Dr. Zeyoudi said upon the formalization of the proposed four agreements, he would lead a delegation of private sector representatives to PNG.

“I therefore look forward to the exchange of drafts and signing of these agreements before the end of the year,” said Minister Maru.

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