AUSTRALIA BUSINESSES EYE PNG TRADE

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Cairns seeks to become trade hub

By Nick Dalton of The Cairns Post PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 4, 2009) - Cairns business leaders recognize Papua New Guinea as the new frontier as the city seeks to extend its economic base.

They want Cairns to become the key hub for business between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

As part of its "new deal" to broaden the city’s economy, Advance Cairns, Tourism Tropical North Queensland and the Cairns Chamber of Commerce are calling on the Federal and State Governments to work with them to help better identify and define the opportunities in PNG.

Advance Cairns chairman Russell Beer said the chamber and his organization were already working on developing business opportunities, including two separate trade missions.

"More resources are needed to fund an urgent and holistic study into opportunities for Cairns region businesses to sell goods and services into PNG to take advantage of the significant developments in that country’s resources sector," he said.

"We aim to develop the Cairns brand in PNG so that Cairns is the automatic choice for a base for Australian engagement with PNG the same way Darwin seems automatically to be seen as the Australian access point for business with East Timor.

"(We need) better engagement with our closest capital city, Port Moresby, and neighboring country PNG to allow our businesses to take advantage of the major projects to take off there."

Mr. Beer said the trade missions were the first in seven years and the slots filled quickly.

"We have a 30-year history of air links but currently no direct shipping links and see big opportunities as both an air and sea transport hub for both cargo and passenger traffic," he said in the Relief, Recovery and Reform Plan presented to high-level government leaders in Brisbane and Canberra.

"We are about to conduct a study of shipping demand to generate a feasibility study to see if we can justify a regular shipping service between Cairns and PNG," the report said.

The report said Cairns had some notable advantages, including the largest PNG expatriate population in Australia and a new PNG consul.

"Cultural and family connections offer an opportunity to strengthen business links," it said.

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