MANILA --Trade and industry secretary Ramon Lopez said that finding ways to expand economic relations between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea will be high on his agenda when he flies off to Port Moresby to attend a high-level trade ministers' meeting next week.

Top economic managers from the 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member states are set to convene there to take part in the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting on May 25 to 26. The meeting was reportedly called to discuss how APEC policy must adapt to the challenges posed by rapid digital development, among other issues.

Even before the APEC-MRT Meeting, Lopez met Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neil and Minister of Finance James Marape here on Wednesday to discuss possible opportunities to expand bilateral trade and economic relations between the Philippines and the Oceania country.

“We are committed in having Papua New Guinea as a strategic economic partner through greater bilateral trade and investment ties, as well as substantive engagements in APEC. We are optimistic that even as we develop broader links of friendship between our two countries, we can expand opportunities for trade and investment,” said Lopez.

Among the sectors which the two countries can jointly venture into include agriculture as well as oil and gas exploration. The DTI chief added the Philippines can export to Papua New Guinea products such as processed good, electronics, machineries and equipment, packaging materials, and appliances.

He also proposed for the Philippines and Papua New Guinea to have Joint Economic Commission (JEC).

Meanwhile, APEC Committee on Trade and Investment Chair Justin Allen said in an interview available at the APEC website that digital transformation in the region has brought new opportunities for trade in the Asia Pacific.

“Our goal is to involve more small businesses in those production and supply chains. A key challenge is around knowledge and education. One of the things we are addressing more now in APEC is how to train our next generation of workforce to identify those opportunities and capitalize on them,” Allen said. (PNA)