By Eoin Blackwell, AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is expected to touch down in Papua New Guinea on Thursday afternoon, marking her first official trip to the Pacific Island nation.In a visit lasting just under 48 hours, Ms Gillard is expected to meet with her PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill, his cabinet, and the opposition leader Belden Namah.
Ms Gillard and Mr O'Neill are expected to canvass a raft of issues during the visit.
Trade and enhanced defence cooperation will be the topics for the meetings, with PNG expected to raise concerns about visa processing for Papua New Guineans travelling to Australia.
PNG is also expected to seek Australia's help in boosting relations with Asia, as well as seeking Australia's help to host APEC in 2018.
"We are requesting (Australia) to assist us in using their experience when they hosted the meeting in Sydney, Mr O'Neill recently told Radio Australia.
"They would see what sort of issues they had to deal with when they hosted the event, so yes we are communicating with the Australian prime minister on that."
There is about $7 billion in annual trade between the two nations, while Australia also spends roughly $500 million a year in official aid to PNG.
The controversial Australian-run asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island may also be discussed, with its legality currently before PNG's courts.
Ms Gillard is among a number of recent high-profile international visitors to PNG, which this time last year was crawling out of a political crisis sparked by the surprise elevation of Mr O'Neill to the prime ministership in mid-2011.
The mid-2012 election put the lid on the political turmoil and gave Mr O'Neill a massive parliamentary majority.
Since the polls, PNG has played host to Prince Charles, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama, as well as a raft of Australian ministerial visits.
On Friday, Ms Gillard is expected to tour a Port Moresby market and a local primary school, and visit part of the $19 billion Exxon Mobil-led Liquefied Natural Gas project.
She will meet with business leaders while in Port Moresby, and attend a state dinner in the nation's parliament.
On Saturday she will visit Bomana War Cemetery before departing for Australia.
The last serving Australian prime minister to visit PNG was Kevin Rudd, who included Australia's closest neighbour amongst his first overseas trips after being elected in 2007.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is expected to visit Port Moresby next week.