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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar. 23) - The strength of trade between Papua New Guinea and Fiji will determine success of the Melanesian Spearhead Group trade agreements and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola said yesterday.

The value of trade between the two countries is between FJ$18 million to FJ$20 million (US$10.9 million to US$12 million).

Tavola returned recently from a trade mission to PNG, which was organized by the Fiji Islands Trade and Investments Bureau.

The minister said the mission was a success and there would be follow-up missions to other regions in PNG, which has a population of around five million.

"The mission was a success judging from the discussions I had with my counterparts in Port Moresby and with the private sector representatives in the delegation," he said.

"The (PNG) economy is currently on a growth path with the prospects for the future looking brighter with the establishment of a new nickel mine soon and the government has received an increased interest from foreign companies wishing to undertake oil and gas exploration."

Tavola said the timing of the mission was right because the PNG government put in place a legal and policy framework to ensure political and economic stability over the last three years.

An influential factor in the timing of the mission was the completion of the review of the existing trade agreement, which also covered the negative list of products by officials from the MSG.

The Fiji Islands and Trade Investment Bureau said that Fiji’s trade with PNG in the past has been constrained by the existence of the list.

The review exercise had reduced the number of products in the list.

The revised MSG trade agreement would be ratified in this year’s Leaders Summit at Goroka, PNG in August.

"The Government’s role is to create an enabling environment conducive to trade and investment for the private sector," said Tavola.

Nine local companies were part of the mission, two being from the services sector. Companies that went were Star Printery, Turnbull Maggs Partners (South Pacific), Punjas and Sons, Paradise Garments Limited, Pacific Batteries Limited, Jacks Garments Ltd., Dominion Wire and Cables, Ba Industries Limited and Alfa Ropes.

Pacific Batteries and Alfa Ropes Ltd. secured immediate orders.

Punjas and Sons and Ba Industries Limited met with major importers in PNG, which could act as their distributing agents.

March 24, 2005

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