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Pacific Islands Opportunities: First Stop Papua New Guinea

August 22, 2018

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This is the first entry in a series of guest blogs highlighting ITA activities that help connect U.S. companies to opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region following the recent Indo-Pacific Business Forum where Secretary Ross, Secretary Pompeo and other cabinet officials spoke about the Administration’s commitment to the region.

Guest Blog Q & A with U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Catherine Ebert-Gray.

ITA: Tell us a little about the Pacific Islands, particularly Papua New Guinea (PNG), and its strategic importance.

headshot of Catherine Ebert-Gray

U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, Catherine Ebert-Gray

Ambassador Ebert-Gray:  The Pacific Islands are increasingly responsible and democratic nations with an emerging middle class and growing potential for tourism, investment, and development.  Their diverse cultures, rainforests, pristine seas, natural resources, and beauty make them attractive to intrepid travelers and businesses.   The United States has a long and proud history in the Pacific that I’m honored to represent.  Increasingly, we are seeing non-traditional partners such as China working with Pacific Island countries.  It’s important for the United States government and the American business community remain engaged and active in the region as the economies and interests of the Indo-Pacific grows.  PNG is hosting the Asian Pacific Economic Forum in 2018, which represents 21 of the regional economics, 47 percent of global trade, and 57 percent of global GDP.   As Americans, we have tremendous advantages and goodwill which we should leverage to preserve and build strong relations.

ITA: What kind of export opportunities are there for U.S. companies to explore?

Ambassador Ebert-Gray:  While Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are countries with stable and growing economies, Papua New Guinea is by far the largest.  With a land area the size of Oregon or Sweden and a population the size of Michigan, New Jersey, Switzerland, or Israel, it is a market with tremendous potential.  Historically, PNG mostly exported minerals and agricultural products.  That changed in 2014 when ExxonMobil completed construction and began operation of the $19 billion PNG LNG project that exports liquefied natural gas to Asian markets.  Following that success, other oil and gas companies, including French supermajor, Total, are active in PNG working to bring future projects online.

American products and services have been integral to the success of resource projects throughout PNG’s history.  Power is generated by GE turbines or Cummins generators.  Earth is moved with Caterpillar equipment.  The employees take a break to enjoy a cold Coca-Cola.  I see future energy and other extractive projects as ripe targets for American business.  Right now, American companies have been most interested in healthcare and medical products, resource development equipment, electrical generation both traditional and renewable, and increasingly consumer electronics as Pacific Islanders have rapidly moved online.

ITA: How should interested U.S. companies start exploring?

“Representatives of the Lae Chamber of Commerce welcome Ambassador Ebert-Gray and the familiarization tour delegates. Lae is the second largest city in Papua New Guinea.”

Representatives of the Lae Chamber of Commerce welcome Ambassador Ebert-Gray and the familiarization tour delegates. Lae is the second largest city in Papua New Guinea.

Ambassador Ebert-Gray:  They should give us a call, send us an email, or stop by the embassy in Port Moresby!  My team and I love to hear from American businesses who are interested in the region.  We’ve been able to help companies as diverse as fire engine manufacturer exporting for airport improvement projects in PNG to a self-employed American looking to provide consulting services on an Asian Development Bank water project in the Solomon Islands.  To formalize our work, my embassy signed a Post Partnership agreement with the Department of Commerce.  The agreement allows my economic team to offer the full suite of Commercial Service products and services overseas for American companies.  Further, and just as importantly, it allows us to plug in to the terrific network at Commerce to get the resources and assistance we might need.  A capstone to this work will be an American business familiarization trip this August.  We have partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia and the Commercial Service’s office in Australia.  I’m very excited to welcome American companies to my beautiful, exciting, and opportunity-filled part of the world.

If companies are looking for a bit more information on Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, I would recommend the following resources online.

ITA is proud to connect U.S. companies to opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region. If you are interested in how ITA can help you access Asian markets, contact your local International Trade Specialist.