JAPANESE prime minister Shinzo Abe will make a trip through Oceania, visiting Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, from Sunday 6 July.
The trip is likely to address three major Japanese concerns: energy, trade and defence are major pillars of Abe’s administration.
Mr Abe’s visit to PNG would be the first by a Japanese prime minister since 1985. PNG recently completed a $19 billion liquefied natural gas project, and its first shipment set sail for Japan late last month.
A new investment deal between the countries went into effect in January, allowing Japanese businesses to operate under the same rules as domestic companies.
Mr Abe is expected to meet with prime minister Peter O’Neill – although this will of course require O’Neill to overcome his current problems.
He will seek “further improvements in the business environment to encourage Japanese business ventures by allowing greater ease in making investments and starting corporate activities in the country,” according to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.
Mr Abe will want to ensure a smooth beginning to the LNG partnership as Japan’s dependence on natural gas imports increases. He is also expected to address maritime security during his visit.
While Abe’s visit to PNG looks to reaffirm deals both countries find beneficial, his visit to New Zealand will likely be more difficult. Prime minister Key has said that Japan should be cut out of Pacific trade talks if it will not open its markets to more farm imports.
Australia, like PNG, should be an easier visit for Abe. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in April, improving investment and opening up their automotive and beef industries (which is highly protected in Japan).
Australian energy imports will probably also be discussed, but PNG’s new LNG facilities are very attractive to Japan right now as it seeks to increase imports in this segment of the natural gas sector.