Why we get screwed in foreign and trade relations

Submitted by Countryside

In recent times, many PNGns and Aussies have been engaging in a good healthy debate on aid to PNG from Australia. Everyone is in some agreement - it needs to be re-looked at - but its also quite interesting and perhaps not surprising a growing number of bloggers are screaming at the failure of PNG nationals in government, not been able to absorb the aid constructively to deliver to our people.

I personally have had the rare privilege of sitting around mahogany tables in Canberra, Beijing, Brussels, Geneva, New York and Washington negotiating foreign and trade relations on behalf of our great country. Every diplomat and government official we met around the world had one question, “what’s in it for us". Which was what we expected, after all, that’s what former diplomatic hawks in Washington and Brussels taught us. So how does PNG react towards such a question?

Well, as our colorful history tells you, we try to formulate a negotiating position so as to establish a platform of norms that our partner must appreciate our development needs. In return we will allow them access in our markets for their private sector to trade. So the Armada of development assistance comes in. Our kids absorb taxpayers money from our friends in education and health projects, and return some of the experts that will help us make shit loads of money, some will dig great big holes in our backyard looking for rocks, oil, gas and others will mop up our fish in our waters.

So how do you measure the success of aid?? Who is benefitting?? I don’t know, there may be some formula out there that does this but what I have observed over the years is that it is usually the other party that  dominates the entire relationship and eventually wins everything. All because there is a mechanical system of positions that have been meticulously crafted by experts, officials academics etc… and that is then fed to their leaders who than deliver it with utmost conviction and confidence. They’re bloody prepared. 

And herein lies the problem for PNG, we don’t spend time and energy in developing a culture of research and analysis on our foreign relations. We go ill prepared and it translates to our leaders not knowing what to do and say. But in all fairness, these limitations are not mere incompetency but a clear reflection that we are a nation driven by sectoralism in foreign relations and not holistic relations.

So when our biggest bargaining chip is our resources, we sectorally negotiate resources and not holistically look at everything. So at the end of the day, instead of demanding quality control in projects, personal and outputs, we are satisfied experts will help us on the gas project. Instead of ensuring our people should have flexibility in working in Australia and benefit from its industries, we are satisfied with Australian businesses coming to help us with our gas project, instead of negotiating greater allocations of our unskilled men and women to work in farms, we are content with a lousy 700 people because that is a trade off or getting more people to help us with the gas project.

So when the blokes and shielas that come up are recycled public servants whose only training is hopping around the Arnhem Land teaching Aboriginals what’s right and wrong or have just been farted out from ANU, than remember that your leaders trade it off for our natural resources.

When our people working in the private sector are managed by incompetent managers whose only experience is to run little outfits in regional Australia, Mt. Isa or Tamworth, of course you’ll expect little knowledge transfer to help our people in businesses.

There are however signs of hope in the current Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade who is an exceptional man and commands greater understanding in foreign policy compared to his predecessors or his fellow ministers. When he barked at aid effectiveness, trade should be the focus of our relations, this was a man trying to save the pitfalls that had already become part of the norm, where we only engage with our partners sectorally. He’s officers are ringing the same message, holistic foreign relations is the way for PNG and not sectoral trade offs.

The benefits of a holistic approach allows all development issues to be discussed and more importantly trade it off with our resources. Our linear approach is destroying us. At the end of the day we are forced to eat the blueprint of Canberra because of the natural resource trade off. And so, an aid programme is implemented with little contribution and for the most part, it is littered with projections that are not in the interest of PNG.

Discipline is required by the Cabinet to allow Minister Abal and his officers to contribute meaningfully in natural resource negotiations with the Home State (Exonn Mobil for US) of the developers so that they may foster a framework based on sound holistic foreign and trade relations. A good start is his strong views on telling his counterpart Minister Smith and PM Gillard, PNG wants less aid and more trade.

As I said earlier, every diplomat asks the question, what’s in it for us. There is nothing in Australia for holistic development because “what’s in it for them” is in those sectoral concessions.


All I know is that the reason why we get screwed on foreign aid is the same reason every country gets screwed. The donor countries must justify the expenditure of their taxpayers' monies on some far-away peoples instead of using that money for home services.

The only way a national government can justify foreign aid to its peoples are if it makes a good case that this is in the national interest OR it makes a good case that most of the money bounces back to the country anyway.

So long as we remain beggars, we can hardly envision ourselves as negotiators. Few Australians give a hoot about PNG but they do want to see their tax monies used in Australia, not abroad. Thus, the Australian government has little choice but to construct their aid to ensure a high bounceback percentage.

With regard to trade, all the strings are controlled by countries who want our resources at the lowest price and are able to sell us their cheap rubbish at the highest price (or largest market share) possible. Other small countries have tried to control that formula, but since we didn't set up the ITO, we have leverage close to the zero mark.

None of what you propose changes any of those realities on the ground. Our Minister for Trade and Foreign Affairs may be an exceptional man, but he can't change rules cast in stone by the large economies and our former colonial mother.

Well said.
Keep that train of thought up and you'll find yourself in conflict with the indentured servants of the International Money Masters.
Milton Friedman and his decades old campaign of establishment of "Free Market Economics" has not only impoverished nations (Dont Cry for Me Argentina) but progressively slips a noose around the whole world regarding the establishment of a New World Order.
Here's a link to a video outlining the plans of the Banking

Google the name, Daniel Estulin, to discover archives of decades of journalism on the agenda of the global powerbrokers.

Discover some facts regarding the vision of Cecil Rhodes, the 19th century mining magnate who foresaw a world of 10 major regions of governance with Britain at the head.

We shouldn't think it incredible that a few powerful personalities might rule the world of tomorrow. Just look at the capacity of a little nation like PNG to be dominated by a Grandfatherly old rogue.
It's not just the person of the tyrant that is the problem, it is the lack of understanding by the populus in general that renders them complicit with the tyranny.

Pro 29:18 Where [there is] no vision, the people perish:

Your comments indicate that you view aid is merely for a philanthropic exercise and the contributors (tax payers) are interested where their money is spent. And on trade rules, your perception is that because they are formulated with developed country interests, PNG is bounded with it for eternity. Quite shallow and is perhaps demonstrable of your lack in appreciating the nature of international relations.

Aid is a relationship as well as trade. This relationship needs to have sound analysis on where we should advance our offensive interests and protect our defensive interests. These interests must be identified and articulated as our national positions and furthermore, be our starting point when negotiating our aid and trade relations. Countries throw millions for one reason, “what’s in it for them.” we have to ask the same question, what’s in it for us. Is a relationship with Australia worth more than a relationship with China. What can we get from China we cannot get from India. America is interested in this and the EU is interested in that. what can we get from them??? you see, this has nothing to do with satisfying taxpayers, its all about making major inroads of bringing prosperity and security to countries that wanrt relationship with us.

Ok, so some PNGns get educated, are treated in hospitals from Australian taxpayers monies but at the end of the day, Australia is just satisfied they are not crossing my hundreds and thousands to Thursday Island to get treatment. They are content that the mess can be soughted out in PNG and not coming down to Australia. This is all good and I do agree with Canberra’s approach of fixing the problem on PNG’s side. But the larger question is what can PNG demand and negotiate so that the programmes that are been proposed are not crap? This is where we have to rise and identify our offensive and defensive interests. Demand programmes that are practical, materials that are useable and transfer of knowledge and technology to sustain our public servants to carry out these important public functions. We are not demanding these.

As for trade, the current Doha Round (commenced in 2002) in the WTO has paved way for revisitation of negotiating flexible development augmented rules for trade. Developing countries are shaping these rules and been personally involved in this process, positive developments have been made on these issues.

At the end of the day, we have to formulate the answer, “what’s in it for us.” We’re beginning to do this and the Alotau outcomes should yield interesting results. Already, PNG is demanding new platforms of aid and trade relations. These include direct budget support so as to conform with government planning priorities, a closer economic cooperation framework is been considered and targeted areas of concessions in goods and services are been looked at, in both the goods and services sectors.

Abal’s move is positive and must be the platform for future relations including the oversight on natural resource negotiations as well so that the Home State of the investor is demanded to make similar concessions. Holistic approach is the way to go as this will align development features already established in bilateral to transcend into investment and natural resource agreements.

Robin I agree with your sentiments on the importance of vision and a way forward by our political masters on development. Heaps of examples out there in the present and past on where things have gone horribly wrong and impressively right on development. But at the end of the day, it is the political will to charter development and in the case of this article I wrote, partners who will assist us. for better or for worst, Australia will remain an integral part of PNG’s foreign policy. To make the best of this relationship, forging specific targets that they may assist us and we assist them in their endeavors should be the objective.

The old man will go one day but foreign relations wont and so will the countless public servants wheeling and dealing our international relations. Therefore, practical modalities of holistically dealing with our partners must be the objective and using our biggest bargaining chip, natural resources, is the way to go. The model pursued by Abal is worth exploring as it does take this approach and although the fruits of his work will take years to appreciate, he has theoretically covered all the bases.

If the secotral approach was all that we had, our people would not be better off as benefits from partners will be linear, a position none of us want to be in.