by Levi J Parsons, Zhang Ning
PORT MORESBY, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Papua New Guinea's (PNG) business relationship with China is moving ahead in "leaps and bounds", according to PNG Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Justin Tkatchenko.
"Over the last six or seven years, the China-PNG relationship has grown extraordinarily," he recently told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
"We've already got most of the biggest Chinese companies here already, investing huge amounts of money, time and effort...looking at opportunities for new projects and new investment."
"The relationship that we have together is a perfect working relationship when everybody's working for one aim and one goal and that is to have mutual benefits all round, not just for China, not just for PNG, but for the region," he said.
With PNG gearing up to host the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in November, a massive Chinese-led infrastructure boom already underway and direct flights from Shanghai set to take off before the end of the year, Tkatchenko believes China will have a "big role" to play in the long term growth of PNG.
Among the huge potential for cooperation in mining, education, healthcare, infrastructure and road development, the minister sees tourism as one of the most important sectors.
"The first direct flights from Shanghai to Port Moresby will increase our tourism greatly," he said.
"We need to look at building, with the Chinese investors, tourism resorts that -- one, suit the Chinese capacity and suits the Chinese requirements -- and two, also highlights all of our culture, our tradition, our wildlife, our scenery and our food."
Despite a recent spike in the tourism industry, Tkatchenko said he thinks 10 times more can be done to promote PNG.
"I look at the Australia-China relationship when it comes to tourism," he said.
"Millions of Chinese travel every year to Australia, pumping billions of dollars into the Australian economy through tourism, but we've got it all here, we've got it better than Australia. It's just that we need to get our act together here, work in partnership with China and bring people here to have a wonderful, tropical experience."
"You want to see real culture, you want to see the birds of paradise, you want to see real jungle, you want to see the real natural beauties, waterfalls, fountains, natural wonders, you want to experience our beautiful clean sand beaches and go fishing? There are many different aspects that can attract Chinese tourists to PNG."
But in order to make this vision a reality, Tkatchenko said further infrastructure development is still needed in the South Pacific nation.
"For us in the bilateral sense, it's about supporting the Belt and Road Initiative and working with China on how we can mutually benefit together to take that to the next level," he said.
"At the end of the day, it's all about securing long term benefits for both PNG and China, economically and physically, and also to secure understanding between both countries."