PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare has thanked his New Zealand counterpart John Key for helping PNG to develop its agriculture and livestock industry.
“New Zealand has vast experience in the cattle and beef industry and we look forward to continuous cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock.
“New Zealand’s support in providing scholarships for PNG’s women in agriculture and its recent facility of K3.7 million for smallholder farmers’ projects for rural communities in PNG are much appreciated,” he told Mr Key during his official visit this week.
He also expressed appreciation to Mr Key for the constant support and cordial relations between the two countries since Independence in 1975.
“New Zealand has been helping PNG over the years in agriculture, human resources development and defence cooperation,” he said.
Sir Michael told Mr Key there was currently a shortage of skills in PNG brought about by the development of LNG project.
“The project is the single largest development project in our history. Its development will transform PNG in the next 40 years.
“Direct capital investment is expected to be at US$10 billion (K36 billion) in real terms over the 30-year life of the project.
“Gross domestic product is expected to double from current levels and the Government plans to set up a future sovereign fund aimed at improving socio-economic conditions,” he said.
Sir Michael also acknowledged New Zealand’s involvement in the Bougainville peace process and subsequent peace monitoring missions.
“This process has become a special chapter and remains a key pillar in our bilateral relationship.
“With the second elections process underway, my Government has invited partners, including New Zealand, to observe a credible electoral process,” Sir Michael said.
He said New Zealand was an important trading partner and while the balance of trade favoured New Zealand, there was still potential to improve trade and economic relations.
PNG’s current major exports to New Zealand are crude oil, coffee, timber and other wood products while New Zealand investments in PNG are largely in the insurance and construction industries.
Both leaders discussed other regional issues such as Ramsi (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands), the upcoming Pacific Island Forum (PIF) and Melanesian Spearhead Group meetings.
On Fiji, Sir Michael said his concern was the people of Fiji and their welfare and would remain in dialogue with the regime.
Despite the suspension from the Commonwealth and the PIF, Sir Michael acknowledged the efforts New Zealand was making in dealing with the interim government and people of Fiji.
In sport, Sir Michael said: “We welcome New Zealand’s offer to provide a rugby union coach for PNG and I formally request for coaching and technical expertise.”