A ministerial forum between officials from PNG and Australia has been described by the foreign minister as an event that continued to ‘advance the special partnership between our nations’.
In a statement on Friday, Marise Payne said she co-chaired the 28th forum virtually with PNG foreign affairs and trade minister Soroi Eoe. The event involved seven Australian ministers and eight PNG counterparts.
“We have a shared commitment to meeting current economic, development and security challenges, particularly those posed by COVID-19,” Payne said in her statement.
“Australia’s commitment to ensure the supply of vaccines and support for PNG’s national vaccination program was highlighted as critical to our shared objective of re-opening international borders, and normalising our business, trade, tourism, and education links with PNG.”
According to a joint communiqué from the forum, vaccination rates in PNG’s Western Province were strong and there was interest in expanding vaccination support to adjoining communities to the Treaty Villages. This was in part because of the partnership between the Australian and PNG governments with the Western Provincial Health Authority.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Payne said that the security partnership that Australia has shared with PNG continued to grow during 2020 and 2021. She flagged that discussions about a bilateral security treaty had been agreed to by officials from both nations under the Comprehensive Strategic Economic Partnership (CSEP), which was signed in August 2020. Australian defence minister Peter Dutton also participated in the event.
Other agenda items up for discussion included prioritising cooperation on education and skills, financing, and expanding trade.
“We discussed the importance of critical infrastructure for PNG’s development, highlighting the $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, and our electrification partnership,’ Payne added.
“Ministers agreed on a new $6 million package of biosecurity cooperation to assist Papua New Guinea in controlling animal disease.”