Papua New Guinea - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview
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Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest Pacific Island country by land mass (over 178,704 square miles) and an estimated population between 9 million and 11 million and provides commercial opportunities for U.S. companies.  Following a modest growth in 2021, the PNG economy is estimated to have grown by 4.3 percent in 2022, supported by broad based recovery after two-years of COVID- 19 related challenges.  The main driver of this strong growth is the non-resource sector which is estimated to have grown by 4.6 percent in 2022, driven by the restoration of normal economic activities following the pandemic, higher commodity prices, and increased Government spending in the economy especially 2022 election related spending.  The resource sector is estimated to have grown by 3.7 percent in 2022 consistent with production from the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine and Lihir gold mine and above capacity production from Exxon Mobil Liquified Natural Gas project.

In 2023, the economy is projected to grow at a moderate rate of 3 percent, a downward revision of 1 percentage point from the 2023 Budget projection of 4 percent.  This is largely due to the downward revision in the resource sector from uncertainties around the Porgera mine reopening and the downward revision of the ExxonMobil PNG LNG project production forecast after record production in 2022.  

In 2022, U.S. exports to PNG was approximately US$120 million.  U.S. industry has played a prominent role in realizing PNG’s mining and energy potential.  ExxonMobil’s lead involvement in the PNG Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project was supported in 2009 by US$3 billion in export financing from U.S. EXIM Bank, at the time the largest single exposure in EXIM’s history.  In May 2023 ExxonMobil’s total revenue through the LNG project to the state since 2014 was approximately US$5.6 billion.  In 2023, U.S. gold giant, Newmont Corporation secured a US $19.2 billion deal to buy Newcrest Mining Limited.  Newmont’s acquisition will allow the Colorado-based company to expand its mining operations in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and now PNG contributing to PNG’s economic growth.

PNG’s top five export markets are:  Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, with China consuming more than 80 percent of PNG’s exports by value according to the World Bank.  While Australia remains one of PNG’s most important export partners, its share of PNG’s exports fell from 21.2 percent to 13.5 percent from the first half of 2021 to the first half of 2022, reflecting a 14.4 percent decline, according to the World Bank’s March 2023 Economic Update.  Conversely, exports to all other major destinations rose during this period – China (by 18 percent); Japan (by 71.8 percent); Singapore (by 112.6 percent); and Taiwan (by 40.6 percent).  The decrease in exports to Australia reflects lower gold exports to Australia and higher energy exports to other countries.  U.S. imports from Papua New Guinea were US$76.28 million during 2022.

Imports declined in the first half of 2022, largely attributed to lower food manufacturing and capital machinery imports.  PNG’s top import markets are Australia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  PNG’s top import products include refined petroleum, excavation machinery, crude petroleum, packed food, and delivery trucks.  The World Bank highlighted that for the first six months of 2022 total imports were US$1.54 billion compared to US $1.76 billion during the same period of 2021.

High-growth sectors with potential for U.S. exports and investment in PNG are Mining and Energy Equipment and Services, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Equipment and Services, Building and Construction Supplies, Renewable Energy, and Tourism Services.  On a smaller scale Processed Foods and Beverages, Water Resource Equipment/Services, and Franchising are sectors that also have potential for U.S exports and investment.

PNG has Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with Australia, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.  PNG has a free trade agreement (FTA) with the countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group:  Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji

Political Environment

For background information on the political and economic environment of the country, please click on the link to the U.S. Department of State Countries & Areas website.