CHINESE PLAN SOUTH PACIFIC TRADE PUSH VIA PAPUA NEW GUINEA

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 4, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Chinese businesses familiar with Papua New Guinea are already planning on taking advantage of the Morauta government's new push in the China-Papua New Guinea business relationship.

One company plans to get itself listed on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange and become Papua New Guinea's largest supplier of building materials. PNG will become its headquarters for expansion into the South Pacific region.

While Papua New Guinean business leaders are drawing up details of a vehicle through which PNG and Chinese businesses will set up joint ventures, their Chinese counterparts are showing great enthusiasm in investing in PNG. Sir Mekere's announcement in Beijing triggered off great interest among Chinese business houses.

A relatively new player in building and hardware supplies in PNG, Beijing New Building Materials Public Company (BNBM), announced to reporters in Beijing that it will form a merger with a PNG-based construction company, set up its headquarters in Port Moresby and get listed on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange. Its PNG base will become a springboard into other island countries like the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji.

Deputy chief executive officer Thomas Cao said BNBM was first set up in Port Moresby several years ago and has since expanded to Lae and only last month opened a branch in Kokopo.

"We are now a major supplier of building materials. We are the biggest supplier to mining operations. We will become the largest supplier in quality and competitive pricing," said Mr. Cao.

"Port Moresby will become our headquarters as we expand to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji," he said.

As soon as the merger is formed, the new PNG company will apply for listing on PomSOX.

Sir Mekere's meetings with the top political leaders in China and the business leaders were given top coverage by the Chinese media. The English newspaper China Daily and a Mandarin newspaper in Beijing gave Sir Mekere's meetings with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji front-page leads with pictures.

This underlined the importance the Chinese Government attached to Sir Mekere's visit and the push for new commercial and economic relations between China and PNG.

It is significant that Sir Mekere chose China as his first official visit to a sovereign nation since becoming Prime Minister. President Jiang and Premier Zhu spoke highly of Sir Mekere's visit and have committed their state instrumentalities to do everything possible to take the Sino-PNG relationship to a "new high."

Sir Mekere asked Mr. Jiang and Mr. Zhu to renew the Chinese government's special credit and low-interest facilities through the EXIM Bank of China to help new joint venture businesses by the Chinese and PNG companies.

Both leaders have agreed to Sir Mekere's request and Mr. Zhu has specifically requested that projects financed since 1996 be brought on stream as soon as possible.

Another company already in PNG, Chinese Overseas Engineering Company (COVEC), has taken advantage of Sir Mekere's visit to Beijing and its president, Shen Futeng, met with him last week. During the meeting, Mr. Shen pledged the company's support to Sir Mekere's new initiative to increase business relations between Chinese and PNG entrepreneurs.

COVEC constructed the Bereina-Malalaua section of the Trans-Islands Highway that will eventually link up Port Moresby and Lae. Covec also constructed the newly opened Wawin National High School in Markham, Morobe province.

A tropical diseases drug supplier, Beijing COTEC New Technology Corporation (COTEC), is positioning itself to supply anti-malarial drugs to PNG.

Vice-president of COTEC, Lu Chumming, said in Beijing that the company's anti-malarial drug - Cotecxin, scientifically known as dihydroartemisinim, has been recognized by the World Health Organization to be most effective. It is currently widely used in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and other island countries in the South Pacific, he said.

Mr. Lu said a PNG distributor had been identified and samples were supplied to the Aitape tsunami disaster victims. He said an agreement on pricing is still being worked out before Cotecxin could be exported to PNG.

The University of PNG's medical faculty has tested the drug and found it to be effective against all forms of malaria, said Mr. Lu.

The Prime Minister and his delegation of businesses executives and government officials went on to visit southern cities in China where they were to have had talks with business and provincial political leaders before flying to Hong Kong. They will return home on Wednesday.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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