Why PNG matters to Australia and the Pacific's regional economic integration aspirations

Submitted by 'Countryside'

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between the Pacific and the European Union, were indeed an education for many Pacific trade negotiators. From the slaughter house of Brussels' 'Centra Brochette' where former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson humiliated Pacific Trade Ministers in shouting them down on every negotiating position advanced, to the backstabbing thuggery on Papua New Guinea running parallel negotiations with the EU to cut deals and preference separate from the pacific countries, hard and tough lessons were learnt. 

Yep, many of us walked away bruised, exhausted and perhaps with greater awareness, there really are no friends in trade.

Quite recently, one senior pacific trade official commented, “When Africa sneezes, the Pacific catches the cold.” Why? Because, the only interest in the Economic Partnership Agreements between the African Caribbean Pacific regions is Africa. Now, three years on, one apparent fact remains, the Pacific is eating the scraps of Africa’s progress. 

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has over the years engaged with Africa with the hope to advance similar positions. Built on friendships and contacts, positions flowed freely into the Pacific for the region to abreast themselves on the gains of Africa and more importantly, use them for the negotiations. Of course, not everything that flowed from the Motherland was good for the Pacific, so quality control measures ensured the Pacific position was upheld. Their EPA negotiations have demonstrated major improvements from previous interim texts where the obligations were counterproductive to export and trade policies of the Pacific. 

The lesson was simple, if you’ve got more resources, than we will cut deals with you.

Can we expect anything different from PACER Plus? Hell no. If you’ve got more resources, Australia New Zealand (ANZ) will cut a deal with you. So let’s look into the region and see who does have more resources and who ANZ will cut a deal with. The obvious suspect is PNG, the land of the unexpected as they say. Well it’s becoming more expected now. They’ve got money falling out of their ears from gas, rocks, fish and lumber. Yep it’s all boom boom boom and contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the sound of gun totting raskols holding up a bank but the stampede of Australians running across Tories Strait to cash in.   

So for the past two years, PM Gillard and her predecessor being the leaders they are, needed to fix a deal with the black fellas up north so the Blokes and Sheilas can vote them back in. They’ve sent officials, high commissioners and heck, almost every public servant in Canberra to PNG to ensure there is a magical yellow brick road from Australia to PNG. Where there are no tariffs, no burdensome non tariff barriers like Sanitary Phiyosantiary measures, Technical standards, no trade in services restrictions, visa requirements, no capital movement restrictions and of course the best part, no taxes to pay. Yep, the Blokes and Sheilas have got it all. It’s all ozzie ozzie, oi oi oi in the land of the unexpected. Don’t you love a public service that can deliver to its people.

What about my wantoks trying to come the other way of the yellow brick road?   No, they need to comply with complicated market access arrangements such as burdensome Rules of origin arrangements, tons of paper work on quarantine, don’t forget the qualifications part, our lawyers, doctors, accountants cant work their because they’re not qualified. Ohh and the visa requirements, well you can forget that, stand in line like everyone else. And yep, you’ll paying shit load of taxes. 

So when Minister Abal talks to his counterpart Stephen Smith in Alotau on PNG not wanting less aid and more trade, but dear minister, for pity’s sake negotiate an agreement. Our wantoks must walk on that yellow brick road with the same deal. Ok, so Stephen’s old mate Simon Creen said it’s all about development and no one will get smashed. Don’t forget Stephen’s old boss Kev, he also told all our Chiefs under a house win Cairns, no one will be worst off. And even some guy in Samoa call Misa Telefoni is preaching about PACER Plus will allow his Solei Samoans that they will not only be eating  Palusami but Australian meat pies and vegemite as they have comparative advantage on them.

We’ve all heard this shit before, that’s right from some guys in Europe call Louis Michel, Former Commissioner for Development and his boss Borroso. But at least for the cultured Europeans, they made it look cool by saying “we are generous but not naïve.” That was before they massacred us at Centra Brochette. 

I have no doubt Sam’s chat with Stephen will set in motion a trade relationship that PNG will negotiate a trade agreement bilaterally with Australia.   But what about the outcomes of the Forum Trade Ministers in Ponopei earlier this year?   What about the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor that will be developing a regional trade pact with all forum countries negotiating collectively with ANZ? Well, that was all for a show mate. Gotta tell these backward islanders we’re one big family.

These developments remind me of a piece of history in a far away land called Matabeleland Kingdom, which has one of the richest gold deposits in the world. Facing growing pressure from hungry land grabbing Boers, adventurous Englishman and superpowers cutting up Africa, King Lobengula sent emmesries to London to get guidance from Her Majesty Queen Victoria, on why they, in particular Mr Cecil Rhode’s British South Africa Company Agreement, is good for his country. 

After gauging wise counsel from her advisors, she wrote a truthful letter that the contract Mr. Rhodes was pushing for will destroy his kingdom as all minerals; land, trade, and every other possible international relationship will be under the exclusive right of Mr. Rhodes Company. She explicitly wrote to not enter into the contract. A couple of months later after Mr. Rhodes effectively bribed the entire political system, she rescinded the advice. King Lobengula told his advisors, “this women speaks with two tongues.”    A couple of months later, Matabeleland was conquered by mercenaries and Rhodes company raped and pillaged the land for the next 100 years. 

Pacific’s Matabeleland is indeed PNG. As they forge to run deals with a superpower, they are binding their people to live in a relationship with Australia for eternity. Ok so the PACER Plus contract is not as controversial as Rhodes one, but it is potentially just as poisonous. Canberra will speak in various tongues to seasoned WTO and EPA PNG negotiators. Our officials will no doubt try their best to fight for my wantoks so that when our people want to walk on that yellow brick road from PNG to Australia, they are free to trade. Past experiences will also show wannabe trade gurus will find some excuse to be in the frontline to negotiate. Thinking they are the voice of our people, they will push agenda that Kanage, Agnes and Mr. Roots will suffer. Why, because the interest they push is not in their interest but long whiteman na kong kong tasol. 

But the most destructive result in all this is that PNG will set the bar for the rest of the Pacific. That’s right, the framework for PACER PLUS will be determined in Alotau. Why, because PNG has a whole lot more resources than any other Pacific island country and the blokes and Sheilas want to be part of it. 

So its up to PNG. Will you lead the region and champion the cause or cut the deal of a lifetime so that Canberra gives you more. Gee, I wonder what option the Lubengula’s of PNG will opt for??


I can't believe this is the Countryside whose long, verbose postings sometimes appear on pngscape. If it is, WHY DON'T YOU WRITE IN SUCH AN INTERESTING WAY ON SCAPE?

Very good article.

This website seems to have a greater command the sort of intelligent ambiance scape doesn't have. Might as well spend more time contributing here.


The statement: "There are no real friends in trade" is true.

It was a toss up between Australia going for the weakest(possibly in this case Samoa who are keen to sign with Australia on PACER-Plus or PNG who have more resources). The recent meeting in Alotau seems to suggest as Countryside points out that PNG will be the country to set the template for the rest of us in the Pacific.

This is possibly the worst option for the region already struggling to hold a regional negotiating position on PACER-Plus. Once PNG signs hopefully Australia has very little interest in the rest of the islands and does not pursue free trade agreement with the rest of us. That might be our only saving grace. But that's just me living in a pipe dream. The domino effect will take place....and the rest of the islands will fall in line (now that Fiji has been effectively removed from negotiations, our very own regional Secretariat is compromised).

It will be an ozzie ozzie Oi Oi ....all the way cashing in on our local economies!

I agree with your sentiments and the important point I am trying to alert PNGns is that they must see the value of their power in the region. They hold the power to influence the region and therefore healthy debates must take place as to what PNG is willing to do. Ok, so 80% of the pacific live in PNG and so why worry about the other 13. Well there are times when PNG will need their votes and support and this is where we should be investing our time and energy.

Of course, nothing is stopping us from also demanding to the pacific, what do we get in return?

I agree with Countryside in so far as that this does represent an opportunity for PNG to gain leadership in the region. Frankly that is where the debate needs to head in terms of South South Coorperation amongst PNG and island countries and in particular MSG countries.

The MSG which is touted to having the ability to respond to such an agenda frankly after yesterday is increasingly losing it's credibility. The Australian government with their arrogance publicly confirmed that they made representation to the MSG leadership and got the decision they wanted. WHat does that say about using "outside Forum processes" to supersede the soverignity of the MSG decision making. The fallout from this MSG debacle (and no I am not a supporter of Voreqe)will only strengthen the Australian governments position in island affairs for many many more years to come.

So again it's Ozzie Ozzie oi oi all the way!!!

The problem with PNG is: no MP thinks about doing what is supposed to be done as LEADERS! I hardly see any PNG bureaucrat and MPs sitting down sleeplessly to at least think hard and do what legit leaders are supposed to do. They enjoy a luxurious lifestyle and when envy creeps in with their lazy luxurious lifestyle, they wish to remain in power...a power of greed and ego, which eventually leads to corruption.

Countryside's views are a views of a possible advisor of a good leader who can sit down and think for once what is right for the country.