By HELEN TARAWA
FOREIGN Affairs and Trade Secretary Barbara Age says a review of the existing trade agreement was necessary to enter into a bilateral free trade agreement with Australia.
Age, said this during the 35th Australia-PNG Business Forum and Trade Expo yesterday.
She said a trade agreement, among other things, provided that element of predictability for business and trade, but did not always provide the solution.
“I believe that our partnership should also focus more on trade and investment opportunities, including promoting business-to-business engagement,” Age said.
“This also calls for a review of the existing trade agreements and the possibility of entering into a bilateral free trade agreement with Australia, who have always been PNG’s number one trading partner.
“A large part of the equation lies in the issues behind-the-border, at-the-border or across-the-border.
“So we can conclude the best trade agreement, but it won’t yield the expected results if we don’t address the supply-side constraints and demand-side issues.
“This is where the government’s role as the facilitator is crucial.
Age said governments had the primary responsibility of creating the enabling environment for business and the private sector to operate.
She said this involved addressing a wide range of issues from the “farm to the fork” which focussed on production, processing, distribution and consumption to enhance environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of societies or communities. Age said it also involved addressing law and order, removing administrative bottlenecks, including stringent visa requirements, developing infrastructure which have been included in the national trade policy.
She said the biggest policy challenge for PNG is the dualistic nature of the economy and how to transform the rural communities and integrate them to the formal economy where they could take advantage of business opportunities and international trade.
By HELEN TARAWA