Indonesian Ambassador to PNG, H.E Andrias Supandi has paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister James Marape recently during which they discussed new and ongoing issues of mutual concern.
The leaders discussed cooperation on COVID-19 and the reopening of the border, among other things.
Both agreed to ensure the border was properly policed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 along the border areas.
Ambassador Supandi used the opportunity to propose for the two 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.
He said these agreements would pave the way for a more robust bilateral tie between the two countries.
On West Papua, 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 the West Papuan issue remained as an internal issue for Indonesia to resolve, he said.
Other matters discussed included the need for joint cooperation in power connectivity to areas in Western and West Sepik provinces.
Both agreed for the two 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, as, he said, 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 each side of the border.
Image courtesy of Epaper Media Indonesia