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Australia, PNG agree on economic deal

20:52 Thu Dec 6 2012

Australia and Papua New Guinea have agreed on the wording of an economic co-operation treaty at the 21st joint ministerial forum between the two countries in Port Moresby.

The treaty, which will not be before the Australian parliament until March next year at the earliest, will see visa restrictions relaxed for investors and workers looking to come to PNG.

"This economic co-operation treaty commits us to work on trade, investment and business co-operation," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr told reporters in Port Moresby on Thursday.

"I think Australian business needs to get serious, pick up this treaty and start partnering with business organisations in this country."

PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said the PNG government would make a series of announcements next year on reducing the high costs of doing business in PNG and would conduct reviews of its regulatory, taxation and immigration systems.

"There are so many areas for investment in PNG, from mining to oil to gas as wells as forestry and fisheries," he told reporters.

"We are reviewing our immigration legislation so it will allow special types of visas for short-term employment of Australians and others who are interested in investing in our country."

The two countries have also agreed to begin streamlining visa arrangements, and PNG agreed to implement a Work and Holiday exchange of up to 100 young people between the nations.

The wide-ranging joint communique initialled by Mr Pato and Senator Carr also expressed Australia's readiness to aid the PNG government in fighting endemic corruption.

The two nations have also agreed to review Australia's support and PNG's action in battling corruption.

Australia will also provide additional support for Manus Island beyond its current planned $A8 million assistance package to the region, where it has built a temporary asylum seeker facility.

Australia will support PNG to upgrade roads, health facilities and to improve the quality of education on Manus.

"The relationship between Australia and PNG is being fostered by what we're doing on that island," Mr Pato said at the start of the meeting.

The one-day meeting was attended by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare and parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs Richard Marles.

PNG was represented by Mr Pato, Treasurer Don Polye, National Planning Minister Charles Abel, Finance Minister James Marape, Public Service Minister Sir Puka Temu and Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko.