Papua New Guinea’s Chief Trade Officer outlines strategy to build export markets


Trade commissioners in overseas posts and a new online portal for exporters are among the measures being undertaken to try to increase Papua New Guinea’s international trade. Richard Yakam, Chief Trade Officer at PNG’s recently established National Trade Office, explains the strategy behind the moves to Business Advantage PNG.

Richard Yakam during the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland last year. Credit: Richard Yakam

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): The National Trade Office (NTO) has only been operational since 2020. What are its key functions?

Richard Yakam (RY): The NTO is PNG’s central agency for coordinating all trade related policy and trade-related activities.

Primarily, it is an economic development tool focused on addressing constraints within the domestic economy that are limiting our competitiveness within international markets, including the high cost of utilities and transportation relative to other countries.

While it’s incumbent on different arms of government to work directly with industry to address these issues, it’s the NTO’s role to coordinate and facilitate solutions to the myriad trade development constraints.

BAPNG: Is it part of the NTO’s role to develop trade relationships around the world?

RY: Absolutely. The NTO is mandated to negotiate market access with our trading partners, identify niche markets and promote the export of our products. That’s why the Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru, recently announced the appointment of an initial eight new Trade Commissioners across the region. This marks a significant strategy change for PNG, which previously relied on its consular posts overseas to promote trade.

‘Minister Maru’s policy direction highlights the need to move away from the emphasis placed on oil and gas, and … concentrating on areas where PNG has a competitive advantage.’

Later this year, the Minister will make an inaugural trade commissioner appointment to Shanghai, China. Other appointments are expected to include Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the European Union, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia.

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BAPNG: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for PNG to grow its trade internationally?

RY: While Economic Partnership Agreements allow developing countries like PNG to supply produce like palm oil and tuna into the European Union, we are by no means the cheapest developing economy when it comes to production costs. The levelling of that playing field is forcing us to look for new markets, while reducing our cost of doing business internationally. Reducing transportation and other utility costs will go a long way to making PNG more attractive to foreign direct investment.

Minister Maru’s policy direction highlights the need to move away from the emphasis placed on oil and gas, and refocus on core agriculture areas. That means concentrating on areas where PNG has a competitive advantage, like coffee, tea, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa and vanilla.

Another opportunity is to promote PNG’s tuna market globally by providing in-country processing for foreign flagships licenced to fish within PNG waters. We also see tourism as an important part of international trade.

BAPNG: The NTO has just launched a brand-new online National Trade Portal …

RY: This is a one-stop shop for exporters and potential overseas purchasers. The portal will ultimately provide a ‘single window’ into the myriad agencies that play a key role in facilitating trade and investment, including the National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority, the PNG Customs Service and the Investment Promotion Authority.

In addition to providing access to trade agreements and listing all the corresponding products relating to them, the portal also provides an export guide for SMEs looking for overseas markets.

In 2024, we plan to integrate with some international organisations and provide a gateway for online payment. There are also plans to include profile pages of PNG suppliers, and also promote niche markets – such as UAE, where Goilala [in the Central Province] has done well exporting its coffee into Dubai.

BAPNG: What other activities do you see the NTO doing to support the marketing of PNG produce internationally?

RY: We’ve participated in several international expos and would like to undertake trade missions where we take PNG businesspeople into various markets. It’s early days, but we’re already in discussion with the EU to have a PNG Day in Brussels and hopefully will take a few products and private sector people with us.


  1. Gabriel Ningi says

    Thanks concerned departments for the opportunity for assisting the citizens

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