West Sepik Governor likes trade zone concept

3:24 pm on 6 November 2015

The Governor of West Sepik province in Papua New Guinea is urging the government to explore the idea of a free trade zone around the border with Indonesia.

Vanimo harbour, West Sepik province, Papua New Guinea.

Vanimo harbour, West Sepik province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Amkat Mai says West Sepik's position on the border with Indonesia's Papua province offers a range of trade opportunities.

He cites the proximity of West Sepik capital Vanimo to Indonesia's Bhatas market, next to the border, where many PNG people buy cheap products for their small businesses back home.

But Mr Mai says as a result there is a trade imbalance.

"Because money's going one way, PNG kina is going one way, to the other side. Whereas Vanimo town is not changing. We need to look at balanced trade, where Papua New Guinea must also benefit. So meaning that, for example, we can have all the big companies in PNG. They must settle in Vanimo, and then they can trade all their goods to Jayapura (Indonesia), because they have the population."

Amkat Mai says he's also working on establishing better access to market for local cocoa farmers.

West Sepik cocoa farmers usually have to get their product to Wewak in neighbouring East Sepik province in order for it be sold in established markets.

For eastern parts of West Sepik, such as Aitape, there are better transport links to the neighbouring province than their own capital, Vanimo.

Governor Amkat Mai says he has directed funding and resources towards changing this and linking up remote parts.

"Connecting Nuku in the bush to Aitape, so that all our cocoa, all the cocoa that is planted in Nuku, Yangkok and Lumi districts get into Aitape and we export it out of our province. Because right now, we export it out of Wewak and Wewak gets all the income duty revenue. So we want that to be changed."

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