Jakarta. Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo discussed ways to further deepen the bilateral trade ties during the former’s visit to Indonesia on Thursday.
Both countries set their sights on increasing the current bilateral trade volume, which managed to book a strong growth despite the pandemic. According to Jokowi, Indonesia-Papua New Guinea (PNG) trade volume jumped 87 percent in the Covid-stricken 2021, compared to the previous year, and even higher than the pre-pandemic levels.
“It brings hope and optimism for the post-pandemic recovery and I believe there are still many opportunities out there. For that reason, Indonesia is ready to open its borders with PNG to recover the cross-border trade and the economic pulse of the people living in the borders,” Jokowi told a joint presser at the Bogor Palace on Thursday.
The president added that he welcomed the launch of a feasibility study on a preferential trade agreement between Indonesia-PNG.
He also called for a bilateral investment agreement to facilitate and protect investors of both countries. To this end, Jokowi has instructed his ministers, as well as the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) to go on a trade and investment mission to PNG.
Jokowi then went on to say that the bilateral meeting discussed health cooperation, among other fields.
“Indonesia is ready to support PNG’s efforts in strengthening its national health security through the partnership between our food and drug administration agencies. Indonesia’s pharmaceutical companies have shown interest in the PNG market,” Jokowi said.
Jokowi and Marape also had talks on improving both air, land, and sea connectivity between the two countries.
“Hopefully, opportunities will emerge for Indonesian construction companies to build connectivity facilities and infrastructure in PNG,” Jokowi said.
According to Prime Minister Marape, the recent bilateral meeting has enhanced Indonesia-PNG’s ties, with the discussions going beyond the usual border issues.
“For so long, we have just focused on border issues. But the discussion between President [Jokowi] and myself has elevated to discussions outside of border issues, and more into trade, commerce, economy, public service exchange, health and education service exchange,” Marape said.
The prime minister also thanked Indonesia for helping PNG amidst challenging times.
"You have always been there for us in some of the moments when we struggle as a nation, during the crisis, financial stressful days, and Covid-19 pandemic stresses," Marape said, while also inviting Jokowi to visit Port Moresby next year.
Trade Ministry data shows that Indonesia-PNG trade totaled $322.5 million in 2021, a leap from $172.3 million in the previous year. The bilateral trade stood at $212.6 million in 2019.