China and Portuguese-speaking countries cement trade ties

At a recent high-level conference, ministers from China and Portuguese-speaking countries pledged closer trade ties and increased cooperation in areas such as finance, marine investment, and environmental protection.

The fifth ministerial conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries (known as Forum Macao) was held in Macao on 11-12 October.

In a keynote speech to delegates, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China will be adopting 18 new measures over the next 3 years to increase relations between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

China and Portuguese-speaking countries Forum MacaoThe members of Forum Macao are: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and East Timor.  Image: Forum Macao

He said China wishes to build stronger economic and trade ties, and develop a long-term stable and sound partnership with the Portuguese-speaking nations of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and East Timor.

Delegates also heard how Macao – an autonomous region on China’s south coast – will be providing the platform and supporting the implementation of the new measures. Like Hong Kong, Macao is a special administrative region (SAR) of greater China.

Ministers sign action plan

At the conference, countries signed a memorandum of understanding action plan to boost relevant cooperation. It is the first time such a document has been signed since Forum Macao was launched in 2003.

Chinese Commerce Minster Gao Hucheng said the memorandum will help promote substantial bilateral cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries in a number of areas, including manufacturing and infrastructure.

Between them, China and the seven Portuguese-speaking countries are home to 22 percent of the world’s population and account for 17 percent of global economy. Bilateral trade between China and the seven countries exceeded US$360 billion during 2013-2015.

At the conference, Brazil and China also agreed the formation of a US$20-billion fund for infrastructure and industrial cooperation. Brazil will put in US$5 billion, with Beijing supplying the balance.

The aim of the fund is to support projects in energy, mining, high technology, and digital services, as well as agriculture and associated industries.

Entrepreneurs conference

The high-level Macao Forum conference at was followed by a meeting of entrepreneurs from China and the seven Portuguese-speaking countries to discuss how to boost business cooperation.

Charles Shi, a mainland Chinese businessman who moved to Macao in 2012 is a prime example of such cooperation. His building engineering company – Charlestong Engineering Technology & Consulting Ltd – carries out infrastructure and housing construction projects in Mozambique and Timor-Leste.

He says, “The market is very big. The local building materials and levels are lagging behind China. So we bring the advanced technology there.”

At the conference, his company signed contracts with the government of Mozambique to build 35,000 social housing units by 2019.