Pacific trade war looms as PNG warns Fiji to shape up

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PNG's Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Richard Maru ... warning that Fiji could face a "serious trade war". Image: PNG govt

By Nadia Marai in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea has threatened to stop trading with Fiji because of “unnecessary” trade restrictions on PNG products.

Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Richard Maru has warned Fiji that it should expect “a serious trade war” if it fails to explain satisfactorily why it is refusing to allow PNG products to the country.

Ox & Palm corned beef and other PNG foodstuffs ... Beef cracker Biscuits and Nambawan Biscuits. Image: PNG Business and Tourism
Ox & Palm corned beef and other PNG foodstuffs … Beef crackers and Nambawan biscuits. Image: PNG Business and Tourism

The products include PNG’s corned beef brand Ox & Palm and Trukai Rice.

“Over the last 10 years, [trade] ministers before me had tried their best to push Fiji to remove the ban on Ox and Palm and Trukai,’’ Maru said.

“This never eventuated, now is the time to take action’’.

Last year, PNG exported K16.6 million (NZ$7.2 million) worth of products to Fiji. It imported K52.2 million (NZ$22.9 million) worth of Fiji goods –a trade deficit of K35.60 million (NZ$15.6 million).

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In 2014, PNG exported K4.4 million (NZ$1.93 million) worth of goods to Fiji while importing K48. 6 million (NZ$21.3 million).

Three months ago, Maru wrote to Fiji’s minister for tourism, trade and industry seeking clarification on the restrictions. No response was received.

‘No show’
“Also at the Melanesian Spearhead Group trade ministers meeting this year in Port Vila, I had arranged a meeting with the [Fiji] minister but he failed to show up,” Maru said.

“I was told by one of the officials later that they had received my later and they will respond as soon as possible, but this had no eventuated.”

Minister Maru said PNG had allowed Fiji to have an increase in trade with PNG for a long time and trade volumes were increasing for Fiji.

“We have allowed Fiji to have a long trade surplus with PNG for a long time and trade volumes are increasing. It’s not about the volume – it’s the principle.

“If you want to come and enjoy our open market you must do the same to us.’’

He said the PNG government would again write to Fiji’s minister for tourism, trade and industry “expressing our concerns”.

PNG is now giving Fiji 14 days to respond or a full trade war will be declared in the coming weeks.

Nadia Marai is a final-year student journalist from the University of Papua New Guinea. She visited New Zealand earlier this year on a Pacific Cooperation Foundation exchange.

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My name is Nadia Marai and I'm from Papua New Guinea. I am a final year journalism student at the University of Papua New Guinea (2016). Due to the termination of the 2016 academic year, I hope to complete my degree programme next year in 2017. I love to write and travel. I believe in empowering young women and girls in my country to be successful in all aspects of life regardless of our cultural barriers.