The commitment by Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Trade Ministers under the Port Moresby Declaration to strengthen economic integration by enhancing connectivity through the development of an MSG Travel Cardfor business people is among the priority activities of the MSG Secretariat in 2015.
The Ministerial instruction for liaison with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat in Singapore as well as with relevant authorities in Papua New Guinea as first steps for developing the Travel Card has been described by MSG Director General, Mr Peter Forau, as “another exciting initiative” for his team at the Secretariat.
“We have assigned a team of senior Secretariat staff to visit Port Moresby and Singapore for discussions with the authorities in both capitals on the mechanisms that led to the establishment of the APEC Business Travel Card, as well as on their experiences with the actual use of that Travel Card,” Mr Forau said.
“The membership of Papua New Guinea of both MSG and APEC presents a distinct advantage not only for MSG but also for the entire Pacific Islands, particularly during the present build-up to the year 2018 when the Government of Papua New Guinea will assume the APEC Chair,” Mr Forau added.
Initiated by the APEC Business Advisory Council, the APEC Business Travel Card which facilitates business travel between its member economies is widely acknowledged as a major milestone of the APEC community. While a five per cent reduction in trade transaction costs was targeted for the period 2007 to 2010, an APEC study found that business travel costs incurred by APEC Travel Card holders were reduced by 38 per cent, which translates to total savings of US$3.7million, between 2010 and 2011 alone.
The MSG delegation which was led by Ms Barbara Age, Director for Governance and Sustainable Development, included Mr John Licht, Programme Manager for Trade and Investment. They visited the APEC Secretariat on 23 February after consulting with authorities in Papua New Guinea. Private Sector Development Adviser, Mr Henry Sanday, joined the delegation in Port Moresby, and that also allowed him to meet with principal stakeholders for discussions on the European Union-funded MSG Private Sector Development Strategy which is also to be completed by the end of 2015.
“MSG economic integration does not only involve the conduct of cross-border trade and investment activities but it also entails the movement of business persons and professionals between our Member countries,” Mr Forau said. He added that that issue would be an important consideration for the new MSG Private Sector Development Strategy.
The findings from the mission to Singapore and Papua New Guinea are to be tabled at a meeting of Senior MSG Immigration Officials later in the year and eventually with the Trade constituent body meetings including the MSG Trade Ministers Meeting.