15 Aug 2016

PNG and Fiji warned over looming trade war

6:37 am on 15 August 2016

The head of Papua New Guinea's Chamber of Commerce says a trade war with Fiji wouldn't be good for anyone, but he can sympathise with his government's frustrations.

PNG Trade Minister, Richard Maru.

PNG Trade Minister, Richard Maru. Photo: Fiji Government

In a strongly-worded statement last week, PNG's trade minister, Richard Maru, threatened to take retaliatory action against Fiji if it didn't lift its restrictions on PNG goods entering the country.

He says the restrictions go against the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement, and gave Fiji two weeks to respond before PNG would introduce its own restrictions.

The president of the Chamber of Commerce, John Leahy, said imposing trade barriers would be a regressive step, but he hopes the situation can be resolved before then.

"I think any sort of restriction would be a lose-lose situation. But if it does get the outcome the minister's looking for, and that is for Fiji to open up its borders to PNG products, then I suppose that's a good thing," he said.

"I'm sort of hopeful that it doesn't really amount to a trade war and that common sense will prevail and that Fiji will take this as a clear message that PNG's not very happy about it."