During his September visit to Lisbon, Portugal, Macao Chief Executive Chui Sai On could hardly have been given stronger incentives by Portuguese authorities for the Special Administrative Region´s (SAR) role in articulating cultural and economic ties between China and the lusophone countries. The chief executive´s expectations are therefore particularly high for the upcoming Macao Forum Ministerial Conference, where Portugal will be bringing a high-level delegation.
Upon the conclusion of his 2-day visit, Chief Executive Chui Sai On met with journalists to express his satisfaction with the outcome, in particular, new roads of co-operation with Portugal and Macao’s increasing role in the growing relationships between China and countries like Angola and Mozambique. In response to a question posed by Macao Magazine regarding the upcoming Macao Forum, the chief executive did not shy away from expressing great confidence in its success, highlighting the platform´s track record in multilateral co-operation. “We are pleased. Our hopes for the Forum include a retrospective as well as looking forward toward even better results so that we can grow. Our expectations are high.”
During the visit, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa confirmed his attendance to the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum Macao to be held October 11th and 12th. Portugal, who was represented by Deputy Prime Minister, Paulo Portas, at the 2013 Forum, is thus elevating the status of its delegation.
Chief Executive Chui’s visit kicked off 12 September with the 4th Macao-Portugal Bilateral Commision Meeting, where the Portuguese government was represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva and Secretary of State for Industrialisation (and former Macao resident) Jorge Costa Oliveira, as well as diplomats and several ministerial officials.
Increased co-operation in teaching Portuguese language within Macao was key to discussions at the commission. “Macao is an excellent platform for the dissemination of the Portuguese language in China,” stated Minister Silva regarding the government’s public presention of its new plan for language promotion abroad. The minister expressed Portugal´s willingness to assist in training language teachers in conjunction with an increase of scholarships by the SAR which has yet to be evaluated.
After meeting with the Portuguese minister, Chief Executive Chui highlighted the “many conditions and opportunities being created so that residents and future generations can access Portuguese language training,” stressing the SAR´s efforts in promoting the learning of Portuguese in both public and private schools.
Science was also at the center of these 12 September talks. A meeting between the Macao Fund for the Development of Science and Technology and Portugal´s Foundation for Science and Technology is to be scheduled with the aim of boosting co-operation. Fostering bilateral entrepreneurship and start-ups was yet another focus.
Lisbon increasingly appears on the map of international tech entrepreneurship. Starting in November, it will host the annual Web Summit – a major international start-up event – and the government is keen that the summit will boost the city´s appeal. Prime Minister Costa emphasised this goal in a 1-hour meeting with Chief Executive Chui. Talks also focused on economic and trade co-operation. Prime Minister Costa “highlighted Macao´s importance as a platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries,” according to officials from his cabinet.
At the closing of a tightly-scheduled first day, Chief Executive Chui Sai On met with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to discuss further economic co-operation with Portugal given Macao´s current efforts to diversify its economy. Macao´s government, he added, is sparing no efforts in promoting sectors outside the gaming industry, including creative services, traditional Chinese medicine, financial services, conventions and exhibitions, among others.
Given his talks with President Rebelo de Sousa, Chief Executive Chui Sai On is confident that the upcoming Macao Forum meeting will further strengthen Portugal-China and Portugal-Macao relations. Since 2011, Chinese companies have accumulated significant stakes in not only key Portuguese utilities, including EDP (China Three Gorges) and Redes Energéticas Nacionais (China State Grid), but also in banking (Haitong) and health services (Fosun). Millennium Bcp, Portugal’s largest private bank is in talks with Fosun over a partnership that could increase the Chinese fund’s stake as high as 20 to 30 per cent.
With financial ties growing not only between Portugal and China but also countries like Angola and Mozambique, where Macao-operating Portuguese banks such as Caixa Geral de Depósitos have a significant presence, the SAR will have a growing role in RMB clearance. This was recently highlighted by Lisbon’s head of the Macao Monetary Authority, Anselmo Tang.
One of the major projects under consideration, according to Chui Sai On, is a center in Macao which would house all SAR institutions connected to economic commercial activities, trade promotion, event organisation, meetings, cultural exhibitions and professional training under one roof.
At the 4th Macao Forum Ministerial Conference in 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Wang Yang launched the “one platform, three centres” initiative, entrusting Macao with creating specific centres linking China with Portuguese-speaking countries, specifically in the areas of commercial services for small and medium enterprises, food product distribution and conventions and exhibitions for economic and trade co-operation.
As part of the ongoing work of building Macao as a platform, Chief Executive Chui reiterated the SAR’s commitment to this initiative at the end of his visit. “There is the need to develop this centre, and the central government has given us this opportunity.”
The SAR is open to hosting businessmen from Portuguese-speaking countries in an approach to the “great market” of China, in particular, opportunities offered by Chinese free trade zones, the chief executive added. He further welcomed Portugal’s presence at the upcoming Macao International Fair from October 20th to 22nd.
Summarising his 48 hours in Lisbon a “great success”, Chief Executive Chui promised that the “bridge” between Portugal and China will grow and strengthen via the Portuguese-speaking SAR. “We are very pleased with the Portuguese government's support... [and] we will keep on and further this friendship.
Text Paulo G. Figueiredo
Photos GCS and Xinhua News Agency
(Issue N.26, September 2016