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Papua New Guinea - Foreign Relations

With Independence in 1975 came responsibility in the international arena. The first Foreign Minister, Sir Albert Maori Kiki, announced that "Papua New Guinea wishes to establish friendly relations with as many countries as possible and to be hostile to none." This stance was called 'universalism'.

The first white paper on Foreign Affairs was seen through parliament in 1981 by then Foreign Minister Noel Levi. He summed up the new approach as "active and selective engagement." This enabled PNG to continue with universalism while pursuing specific interests.

It is significant that Papua New Guinea did not have to win independence from Australia. Relations with Australia were amicable, often based on personal ties. Australian political institutions and administrative structures were left in place. Unlike other colonial powers, Australia is a close neighbor. PNG and Australia are affected by the same strategic and regional issues.

Since Independence in 1975, successive PNG governments have issued general statements on foreign policy. These differ in emphasis but are broadly consistent. They reflect a view that Papua New Guinea, the most resource-rich and populous of the island countries of the South Pacific, should play an important role in that region while also looking to develop substantial relationships with the countries of East and South East Asia.

Prime Minister Paias Wingti, whose governments held office in 1985-88 and 1992-94, enunciated a "look north" approach that underlined the potential of relations with Asia. The Chan government that followed in 1994 re-stated the importance of maintaining a global view while affirming the importance of "working the Pacific", although subsequent policy statements spoke of the importance of ensuring the maintenance of "core relationships". The Skate government did not depart from these general principles, but paid attention in particular to strengthening individual bilateral relations with neighbouring countries, including with Solomon Islands and Indonesia.

Sir Mekere Morauta emphasised the importance of PNG's relations with Australia. His government's foreign policy was set out by then Foreign Minister Sir Michael Somare in August 1999.

PNG's international relations are largely cordial. There is a growing relationship with China primarily thanks to PNG's resource wealth. This will become increasingly important as trade between the two countries flourishes. PNG is also seeking higher-profile relations with Japan, as one of the government's financial backers for its LNG projects and a potential customer. Economic advisers are to be seconded into the finance ministry for resource development.

Australia is PNGs largest partner, providing annual assistance close to U.S.$500M. The framework for Australian cooperation is set out in the Partnership for Development, focused strategically on four pillars: primary health, education, transport infrastructure, and law and justice. Australias whole-of-government program includes support to public finance management and to improved national statistics.

The Australian Federal Police provided assistance to the RPNGC to improve its professional capacity. This included human rights training. The Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership provided advisory support to the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption unit, in the Internal Affairs Directorate, and to national police training through the Bomana Police College. All training provided under the partnership was based on the application of human rights principles. The Australian Federal Police also provided 73 advisory officers to the police in Port Moresby and Lae to improve law enforcement capacity.

The ADB has had a long-term engagement in PNG. The ADB Country Operations Business Plan for 2013-2015 outlines a program focusing on infrastructure (transport, power, water/sanitation), state enterprise reform, trade and Production Finance Market, microfinance, and health. The ADB allocation is U.S.$168.9M and Ordinary Capital Resources total U.S.$205M, complemented by U.S.$3.25M in preparatory technical assistance.

In March 2015, ADB approved the partnership strategy with PNG for 2016-2020. ADB interventions support inclusive growth by creating livelihood opportunities and improving access to basic services, especially in rural areas.

The European Commissions country strategy for the period of 2008 to 2013 set out a framework for engagement with PNG under the 10th European Development Fund. A maximum of 130M (U.S.$157M) was available during this period, with a focus on rural economic development and human resources development (basic education and vocational training).

Japans assistance varies from year to year, totaling U.S.$131M in 2009. PNG benefits from grants, people-to-people exchanges and scholarships, and the program covers three priority areas: infrastructure and investment environment; education and health human resources; and environmental conservation and climate change mitigation/adaptation.

New Zealand, under the Joint Commitment for Development with PNG, provides approximately NZ$35M (U.S.$28M) per annum, with a focus on agriculture, electrification, basic health, scholarships and training, and a safer and more stable Bougainville. Oxfam New Zealand has worked in PNG for 20 years, operating in the Highlands, Bougainville, Port Moresby and Sepik regions. Oxfam in PNG assists people to diversify food crops, develop small animal husbandry and fish farming, and generate smallholder agroforestry opportunities across some of the most remote areas of PNG.

Membership of South Pacific regional organisations and participation in the wide range of island country arrangements, have been an important aspect of PNG's foreign relations since before Independence. Papua New Guinea is a member of the South Pacific Forum and the South Pacific Commission, and regional sub-groupings such as the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). Papua New Guinea has also been a major player in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a political/economic grouping established in 1988 and comprising also Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, FLNKS (New Caledonia) and Fiji.

Relations with the countries of East and South East Asia have been emphasised by Papua New Guinea, with ministers of successive governments visiting the region regularly. Indonesia, with which Papua New Guinea shares a land border, has been of key importance, with relations underpinned by a Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Co-operation.

Japan is also significant in Papua New Guinea's foreign relations, particularly as it is a major aid donor. A memorandum of understanding on regular high-level consultations was agreed with China in 1992. Relations with Malaysia and the Philippines are long-standing, and those with Singapore have been developing in recent times. As elsewhere in the South Pacific, companies based in East and South-East Asia have interests in some of Papua New Guinea's major resource industries, including logging and fisheries.

Papua New Guinea is an Associate Member of ASEAN, and signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with that organisation in 1989. Papua New Guinea is keen to upgrade that relationship, if not to membership, then to what has been described by one PNG foreign minister as "a more permanent relationship". It is a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Papua New Guinea's membership of APEC and the WTO has brought it into closer association with the major economies of the region and has provided a formal framework for movement towards recasting its domestic economic policies.

China is an important partner with an active program of grant aid, concessional loans, and personnel training for PNG nationals covering agriculture, engineering construction, industry and telecommunication, sports and education, and infrastructure.

The U.S. is increasing its support for PNG, both through bilateral and regional programs; two primary areas of support are climate change adaptation and community resilience, and HIV/ AIDs, with a supplementary focus on strengthening governance and reducing gender-based violence. Support averages U.S.$8-10M per year.

Papua New Guinea maintains official overseas representation in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea, China, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium (Mission to the European Union), France, and the United States, and to the United Nations in New York.

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Page last modified: 18-09-2018 18:32:56 ZULU