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Australian business delegation heads to PNG

Dominic Giannini (AAP) -

A delegation of Australian businesses is heading to Papua New Guinea to strengthen trade ties, including in clean energy, agriculture and rugby league.

Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres, who is leading the delegation, says it sends a strong signal of Australia's intent to broaden and deepen the economic relationship.

"There are very significant opportunities in clean energy generation itself," he told AAP before his departure.

"We should be doing what we can to assist, lowering the cost of energy, lowering emissions, taking the Pacific off diesel, which is dirty and expensive and constrains economic development in all of these countries."

Senator Ayres said it was important to help lift the living standards and energy security for Australia's neighbours in the fastest-growing region in the world.

"There's an enormous opportunity for Australian firms to be investing in electricity generation and transmission in PNG," he said.

"If we don't deal with the questions of climate and energy in this region, we're going to struggle to do it at a global level as well. So clean energy is a big priority."

The mining and processing of critical minerals, which Australia is looking to do more of onshore, is also an area being targeted for increased co-operation.

"There is a very significant Australian profile in the mining sector in PNG and there are opportunities for further exploration and collaboration," he said.

Expanding the NRL into the Pacific is also on the agenda.

While the delegation will primarily focus on trade and business-to-business ties, it comes against the backdrop of negotiations for a major security agreement.

Australia and PNG are working towards stronger defence ties, with an agreement on track to be signed in June.

Port Moresby is set to sign a defence co-operation agreement with the United States when President Joe Biden visits later this month.

A second pact to allow the US Coast Guard to patrol the Pacific nation's waters with locals on board and adds satellite surveillance assistance is also set to be inked.

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