Papua New Guinea leader says China, Australia visits show ‘robust’ ties with major powers

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said on Friday he looked forward to visits by China’s foreign minister and Australia’s prime minister in the coming days that demonstrated strong ties with countries accounting for more than 70% of its trade.

The high-level visits showed Papua New Guinea’s “strategic role and its robust diplomatic relations with major Asia-Pacific powers,” the Papua New Guinea government said in a statement.

The biggest Pacific Island nation, Papua New Guinea, is resource rich but largely undeveloped and is balancing growing trade ties with China, policing cooperation with Australia and a defence deal that gives the U.S. military access to its ports and airports.

“We will have two very important people in Papua New Guinea over the next couple of days in Chinese Foreign Minister Wang and Australian Prime Minister Albanese,” Marape said in a statement on Friday.

“They are two of our leading bilateral partners, accounting for over 70 percent of our trade,” he added.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who arrives on Saturday and will meet Marape on Sunday, is expected to sign economic cooperation agreements.

Marape said Papua New Guinea aims to complete a study on a free trade agreement with China by June, and welcomed direct exports of its agricultural produce to China.

“We do not intend to compromise our relationship with China, or with any other country, for that matter,” Marape said, a reference to Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy of “friends to all” amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington in the region.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit Papua New Guinea to commemorate defence ties on ANZAC Day by walking a section of the remote Kokoda Track used by Australian soldiers and the Pacific Island nation’s “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” during World War Two.

Marape confirmed Albanese will arrive in Papua New Guinea a few days earlier, and travel to Isurava on April 25.

“The visit of Prime Minister Albanese underscores the close relationships between our countries,” he said.

Source: Reuters

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