The 12th Australia Solomon Islands Business Forum took place in Brisbane on April 18-19, 2023, focusing on economic recovery and bilateral opportunities between the two nations. The forum, held annually since 2019, was significant as it marked the first gathering since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted international trade. Organised by the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council in collaboration with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the event aimed to enhance business partnerships and explore avenues for economic growth.
Keynote speakers included the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Development of Solomon Islands, Hon Manasseh Maeanga, and the Australian Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing, Senator the Hon Tim Ayres. Hon Maeanga emphasised the importance of trade reforms, particularly in primary and secondary sectors, to ensure sustainable growth. He acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on the economy, particularly the tourism sector, and highlighted the government’s efforts to implement tax reforms in consultation with the private sector.
Senator Ayres addressed the trade deficit challenge and urged businesses to leverage agreements like PACER Plus to drive economic growth. He reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to its partnership with Solomon Islands as the preferred security and development ally. The forum also featured speakers such as Dr. Luke Forau, Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, who shared insights on the country’s economic landscape.
Attendees recognised the strong bilateral business relationship between Australia and Solomon Islands, identifying areas of potential collaboration such as infrastructure development, agriculture, education and training, tourism, and service supply. The 13th Australia Solomon Islands Business Forum was announced to take place in the Solomon Islands in 2024, reflecting the commitment to fostering closer economic ties and exploring further growth opportunities.
Overall, the forum provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss economic recovery and bilateral partnerships, highlighting the potential for collaboration and growth between Australia and the Solomon Islands.
Port Moresby played host to the 38th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo (May 15-17 2023) with the participation of 333 delegates and speakers from various sectors. The forum aimed to strengthen bilateral ties and explore economic growth opportunities between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Keynote addresses by PNG Minister of International Trade and Investment, Hon. Richard Maru, and Australian Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Manufacturing, Senator the Hon. Tim Ayres, highlighted the trade imbalance and the need for diversification.
Discussions focused on enhancing supply chains, addressing constraints like supply continuity and market access, and bridging financial knowledge gaps. Australian government programs supporting agriculture and market linkages were acknowledged. The relevance of small enterprises and community-focused entrepreneurship programs in PNG was also emphasised, along with the importance of tourism opportunities and reliable energy supply for business stability and growth.
Visa processing times and travel facilitation were addressed, with commitments from both governments to improve processes and increase employment opportunities. Infrastructure projects, carbon trade opportunities, foreign investment, and permitting processes were discussed, emphasizing the need for supportive legislation, streamlined procedures, and local involvement.
The Henry Kila Memorial Address shed light on challenges faced in rural PNG and the decline in infrastructure. The forum stressed the importance of building human capital, providing relevant accreditation and skills, and utilising local talent for necessary change.
The 39th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum is scheduled for May 2024 in Gold Coast, Queensland, with the aim of further fostering bilateral cooperation and exploring mutual growth opportunities.