Indonesian Ambassador to PNG, H.E Andrias Supandi has recently paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister James Marape, during which they discussed new and ongoing issues of mutual concern.
Among issues discussed, both Leaders talked about the cooperation on COVID-19 and the reopening of the PNG-Indonesia border. Both agreed to ensure the border was properly policed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 along the border areas.
Ambassador Supandi however proposes for both countries to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to facilitate trade and commerce given that there is potential as demonstrated in the success of vanilla trade. He said this could be better coordinated and managed through such an arrangement as a Free Trade Agreement.
Ambassador Supandi also informed Prime Minister Marape that Indonesia has already ratified the Border & Defence Cooperation Agreement and Land Border Transport Agreement and was awaiting PNG to do the same.
These agreements allow for more robust bilateral ties between the two countries. He added that, in relation to the West Papua issue , Indonesia is very much appreciative of the consistent position that PNG has taken in acknowledging that West Papua was an integral part of Indonesia , and continues to remain an internal issue for Indonesia to resolve.
Both Leaders also discussed the need for joint cooperation in power connectivity to areas in Western and West Sepik provinces, and agreed for both countries to consider jointly developing the border areas through a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
This would facilitate trade, commerce and in doing so, open up employment opportunities for people living on both sides of the border. Regarding investment, Prime Minister Marape requested Ambassador Supandi to identify an Indonesian investor who was interested in buying cattle from PNG, adding, Papua New Guinea was ready to enter into a joint venture in this area.
Prime Minister Marape finally proposed a Special Travel Protocol between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This, he added, would not only allow for more people-to-people interactions but would help facilitate easier access by traditional border crossers to continue visiting relatives on either side of the border.