Friday, November 30, 2012

Critic Post On : Papua New Guinea looks North

Post Courier

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill’s message to the Government and people of Australia is very clear: the Government and people of Papua New Guinea appreciate Australia’s massive annual Overseas Development Assistance and the cordial relations between the two countries, but PNG can’t afford to ignore Asia.
Mr O’Neill is currently on a very busy five-day visit to Australia where he addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday and held bilateral discussions with his counterpart Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

He flew to Sydney on Thursday where he addressed Australia’s influential think tank, Lowy International Institute, and visited a Newcrest-operated mine in New South Wales and later launched an Oil Search-funded Community Development Foundation.
Mr O’Neill will officially open the 2012 Mining and Petroleum Conference in Sydney on Monday before he and his delegation return home on Wednesday.
What the PM told the Lowy Institute about PNG looking north to Asia and beyond is a long time coming. He said: “(PNG’s) engagement with Asia predates our independence (in 1975). But since independence, it has been a priority of every Government and every Prime Minister.”
At independence and in the following years, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s Government’s foreign policy was largely pursued on the theme of “Friends to All and Enemies to None”.
We stand to be corrected, but we believe it was Paias Wingti, when he was PM, who realised the increasingly growing economies of Asia and the vast economic potential that they offered PNG and he coined his Government’s foreign policy tag “Look North Policy”.
Then when Sir Julius again became PM, he acknowledged the importance of the economies of the Asian region and PNG’s Look North Policy, but reminded everyone about the importance of maintaining and promoting traditional ties and relations with its existing partners.
He said: “Look North but Work the Pacific”.
PNG’s relations with Australia, in every aspect, has matured somewhat over the last 37 years since independence, but there are concerns by PNG that Australia still has control over its former colony in some respects when this should not be the case any more.
These concerns include how Australia is spending its ODA under AusAid in PNG – this is where accusations of ‘Boomerang Aid” comes in – whether PNG is really benefiting from the two countries Defence Cooperation Program etc.
PM O’Neill told his Australian audience that PNG will not apologise to anyone for its burgeoning relationship with China, adding that China’s emergence as a world economic power was attracting interest from all over the world, including Australia and New Zealand.
Mr O’Neill also touched on PNG’s relations with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea and beyond to India and Russia. “We are also developing our links with India and Russia as part of our comprehensive regional and international engagement,” he said.
“For PNG, our proximity to Asia and our strong and growing relations with the countries of the region mean that we are very well placed to benefit widely from the growth occurring in the Asian region.” Indeed. It is in PNG’s interest to do so.

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