Alan Bollard, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat : Interview

Alan Bollard, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat

Interview : Alan Bollard

What is PNG’s role in the APEC community?

ALAN BOLLARD: PNG has been a member of APEC since 1993. The authorities have been significantly involved in APEC work over that period, especially in the last couple years, when they’ve played an active role in many of the 50 technical working groups. This is in addition to preparations for hosting APEC 2018, for which they’ve worked on policy priorities. These priorities have been discussed with all other economies, which have agreed that they are appropriate for moving APEC forward, bearing in mind PNG’s particular attributes during 2018.

Through APEC membership, economies play a role in – and benefit from – the dynamic regional market. APEC helps members trade and invest across borders, build connectivity, improve infrastructure and harmonise economic processes. That’s been of incalculable benefit to an emerging economy like PNG. It’s hard to assign numbers, but it’s clearly in PNG’s interest to be connected to the big growth drivers of the Asia-Pacific, which comes with opportunities to build relationships.

To what extent does APEC create positive trickle-down effects for member economies?

BOLLARD: Engaging with APEC and building on best practices will help create an environment that welcomes investment and business development. PNG’s economy is based on agriculture and resource development. Over the past few years it has developed these sectors considerably, but it also has the lowest per capita GDP in APEC. It is noted for having the lowest level of urbanisation, digital coverage and some aspects of infrastructure. APEC offers best-practice guidance on how to help grow all of the above, particularly with regard to harmonised business practices, best-practice investment guidelines and trade promotion ideas. Growth requires foreign investment and trade harmonisation, and PNG understands that. APEC is a test kitchen for new ideas. As host, PNG will steer this process in 2018, but will also be able to learn from it. Hosting APEC is a big exercise that requires significant organisation and resources. During the year we might expect to have 200 meetings and up to 20,000 visitors, including prominent businesspeople, ministers and the leaders from the 21 APEC economies.

PNG wants to see positive trickle-down effects for the local community as a result, but many of the benefits will take some years to be realised. It’s better to not expect benefits like those from hosting sports events, but instead, in terms of good international business practices that will be picked up and put in place locally for the longer term. PNG has also been putting into place significant infrastructure and improvements that will endure after the last leader leaves Port Moresby.

How will natural resources and commodity markets feature in the agenda for APEC 2018?

BOLLARD: This will be an important question for PNG. APEC economies all differ; PNG will bring its experience in mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing to the table. This is reflected in 2018’s priorities, and through the continuation of work that began in 2016 in Peru, which had some similar resource endowments. Resource and commodity trade brings up issues, such as trade barriers, different aspects for supply chains and also questions of regulating illicit trade. PNG will lead discussions on these topics. In some respects, conditions in PNG, such as communal land tenure and its geographical remoteness, will be different from those encountered in other APEC economies. Obviously, the energy and construction sectors are critical to PNG’s development, and extractive industries play a big role in this. Interestingly, the digital economy is also a priority for PNG. Although only one-third of the population is online, it has a very active user base. Once infrastructure is in place, there will be opportunities for PNG to become an efficient digital trading environment, which will enhance existing and already important sectors such as tourism.

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The Report: Papua New Guinea 2018

Trade & Investment chapter from The Report: Papua New Guinea 2018

Cover of The Report: Papua New Guinea 2018

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