“Macao has achieved many fruitful results in building the China-Portuguese speaking countries (PSCs) trade cooperation platform, such as the PCS food exhibition centre, financial service, and people-to-people exchanges,” said Xu Yingzhen, Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat of Forum Macao.
Forum Macao, or the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and PSCs (Macao), was initiated by China in 2003, and now its members include Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Timor-Leste, Sao Tome and Principe.
Given its language and other ties with PSCs and close economic and trade ties with the Chinese mainland, Macao was supported by the Chinese central government to serve as a platform for business cooperation between China and the PSCs.
The cooperation platform has been included in the outline development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).
Macao is playing an increasingly important role as a bridge linking China with the PSCs, which have over 200 million population, with their strategic positions across several continents and mostly along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“Besides the development of China’s bilateral relationship with each of the member countries of the Macao Forum, Macao still plays its role as a coordinating element,” said Paulo Cunha Alves, consul general of Portugal in the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR).
According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, trade between China and the PSCs has grown rapidly since the establishment of the Forum Macao in 2003.
In 2003, the trade value was over 11 billion U.S. dollars. In 2018, the trade value amounted to 147.35 billion dollars. Of this total, China imported goods of 105.51 billion dollars from the PSCs and exported goods of 41.848 billion dollars.
Macao has played a unique role in this progress. For instance, the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute has established “three centres” to serve as platform entities: China-PSCs Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Business and Trade Services Center, PSCs Food Distribution Center and China-PSCs Economic and Trade Cooperation Convention Center.
Xu said the PSCs Food Distribution Center has set up 32 PSCs food exhibition centres in Macao and the Chinese mainland, with each centre showcasing about 2,000 food items, including red wine, canned food, coffee beans, tea, olive oil and dairy products.
Another example is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In August 2015, the World Health Organisation Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine was officially established in Macao.
Some universities in Macao also set up TCM education and research system, including State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicines at the Macao University of Science and Technology, making Macao a gateway for TCM to the world, particularly the countries along the BRI.
The Guangdong-Macao traditional Chinese medicine science and technology industrial park, established by the Macao SAR government and the Guangdong provincial government, now has 159 registered TCM companies and 39 of them are from Macao.
The industrial park has helped those companies bring their TCM products and skills to the PSCs. For example, some TCM products have already been registered in Mozambique and two of them have entered the local market.
The industrial park has also conducted TCM training program with Mozambique health authorities, organised TCM doctors from Chinese mainland and Macao to go to Mozambique every year for TCM experience exchanges, training of local doctors, physiotherapists and pharmacists. The program has also promoted the experience and model of TCM cooperation to the PSCs in Africa.
In addition to promoting the TCM globally, Macao’s advantages are also reflected in the financial service between China and the PSCs.
The Macao SAR government has set up the PSCs Renminbi Clearing Center, the PSCs Enterprise Financing Platform, the PSCs Financial Leasing Platform, and the PSCs Precious Metals (Gold) Exchange Platform to develop financial services featuring RMB clearing, financial leasing and wealth management.
U U Sang, an executive member of Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, told Xinhua that the institute has hosted the International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum with the China International Contractors Association every year in Macao to facilitate BRI construction.
In 2018, the forum was attended by 56 high-level government officials from nearly 40 countries and regions. Since 2017, the forum has issued infrastructure development index for the Belt and Road countries, and in 2019 it issued for the first time the infrastructure development index for China and the PSCs.
Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute have held Macao International Trade and Investment Fair (MIF) for years and invited PSCs to the fair. In 2015 and 2016, the MIF had set up PSCs Products and Services Exhibition (PLPEX) within the MIF.
Since 2017, the PLPEX has been held as an independent event dedicated to PSCs at the same time with the MIF.
Maria Joao, the PSCs Entrepreneurs Association vice president and its representative in Macao, said the BRI and the construction of GBA will inject more vitality into the cooperation between Macao and the PSCs, and expand the space for development.
“Macao is a platform for trade, service and people-to-people exchange between the Chinese mainland and the PSCs. The BRI and the GBA have provided this platform with wider influence and more functions, and helped the PSCs access China’s consumer market and share the development of China,” she added.