Beyond economy

30 September 2016

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Leong Vai Tac speaks about the significant achievements of Macao as a platform resulting from co-operation on commerce and trade, training, language, culture, education, finance, infrastructure and traditional medicine.

Ministerial conferences: past, present and future

This is a signature of Macao!

Positioning Macao as a service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries (PSCs) has been a major initiative of China’s Central Government following Macao’s handover. As we are still in the early years of this transition, Macao has yet to diversify its economy. The Central Government advocated for and initiated Forum Macao, held in Macao, with the hope of scaling up economic and trade co-operation and exchanges between China and PSCs, utilising the deep historical and cultural connections Macao has maintained with such nations.

This platform between China and PSCs highlights Macao’s advantage in regional co-operation and provides a path for its own unique economic development.

From the 1st Ministerial Conference in 2003 to the 4th in 2013, Macao has gradually evolved from a platform mainly for civil and cultural exchanges to an integrated service platform providing excellence in experience and professionalism as evidenced by four successful Forums as well as continued support of and assistance in tasks implemented by the Permanent Secretariat of Forum Macao.

A strategic plan for economic and trade co-operation is signed at each Ministerial Conference. Since 2003, the number of cooperative aspects of these plans has steadily increased. The 2013 Strategic Plan covers 15 aspects of co-operation including Macao-related content such as economy and trade, investment, education, tourism and culture. Specific directives pertaining to the Macao Platform are also included.

At the 4th Ministerial Conference of Forum Macao in November 2013, Vice Premier Wang Yang issued a clear statement supporting Macao’s endeavor to establish itself as a “Commercial and Trade Service Centre for Small and Medium Enterprises between China and PSCs”, a “Food Product Distribution Centre for PSCs”, and a “Centre for Conventions and Exhibitions for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and PSCs” (the “Three Centres”). Additionally, he proposed eight new initiatives supporting the development of PSCs, including the establishment of a Macao-based bilingual information-sharing platform for corporate co-operation and exchange between China and PSCs.

To date, there have been significant achievements resulting from co-operation on commerce and trade, training, language, culture, education, finance, infrastructure and traditional medicine.

The economic and trade platform

The online and offline establishment of the “Three Centres” for the Co-operation Platform between China and PSCs has progressed in phases.

The Economic & Trade Co-operation and Human Resources Portal between China and Portuguese-speaking countries was launched in April 2015. The Portal provides online trade and professional information on individuals and institutions in China and PSCs.

Apart from economy and trade, pooling talent, including bilingual professionals or those with Portuguese proficiency, etc., also needs to be promoted in order to keep our modern commercial services industry on track with economic and trade trends, which requires inter-departmental coordination and collaboration.

Establishing the “three centres”

Macao’s new positioning, assigned by the “Guiding Opinions on Deepening Pan-Pearl River Delta (PRD) Regional Co-operation” issued by the State Council in March 2016, foster the city’s role as a financial service platform for commerce and trade co-operation between China and the PSCs. Macao has long been implementing polices towards marketisation, an internationalised economy, trade and finance system, simple and low tax rates, free currency conversion, and free flow of capital, enabling a more internationally competitive business environment and creating ideal conditions for enterprises from sectors such as China-PSCs industrial capacity co-operation to set up platform companies in Macao for developing markets in China and PSCs. By combining these advantages with successful efforts of the “Three Centres,” acceleration of the provision of large-volume financial services and higher comprehensiveness and efficiency are achieved, including featured financial services such as those catering to industrial capacity co-operation and financial leasing for PSCs.

There is a huge demand for investment in areas such as infrastructure, energy and minerals, agriculture and high-tech co-operation between China and PSCs. As an important node on the Maritime Silk Road, Macao can fully utilise the advantage of being a service platform between China and PSCs to assist with economic and trade co-operation between the two.

Key among these advantages is language. Chinese-Portuguese bilingualism is an important component in the development of economy and trade between China and PSCs, especially in terms of culture. Macao has been playing a vital role as a bridge of economic and trade co-operation between China and PSCs, providing solid support for the continued co-operation. As such, the SAR Government has been promoting bilingual education and training to cater to the demands of the market and human resources.

Synergies of the platform between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries and the Pan-Pearl river delta

Supported by China, Macao has been an important external gateway, especially for PSCs, into provinces and cities in mainland China.

Moreover, participation in the State’s “Belt and Road” establishment plays to Macao’s unique advantage as a bridge connecting the PSCs, coordinating with enterprises in mainland China to actualise the “going out” strategy.

In order to thoroughly implement the “Guiding Opinions on Deepening Pan-Pearl River Delta (PRD) Regional Co-operation,” IPIM organised delegations from the PRD to Portugal and Belgium. On the one hand, this is an opportunity for PRD delegates to enhance exchanges with Portuguese small and medium enterprises and the commerce chamber of Portugal. On the other hand, it is also a step forward encouraging the PRD to “go out”  as a region.

“Coming in” is promoted through conventions and exhibitions held in Macao, especially the Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum & Exhibition (MIECF), a green platform of technology and information sharing and business expansion provided for the PRD and international environment industry. Aside from economy and trade, Macao can also provide services especially in technology transfer, an important advantage of the Macao Platform. In recent years, we have made a bigger effort to invite PSCs to participate in MIECF.

Value-added co-operation via exploiting “+Macao”, that is, the “going out” of provinces and cities in mainland China by means of “+Macao” is vitally important. We also have to continue working on helping PSCs find different kinds of opportunity in the mainland market. Apart from promotional efforts by the government, we also need local enterprises, professionals and young people to collaborate with forces from mainland China to “go out, come in” organically under these policies.

Strengtening Macao with the “Belt and Road” initiative

Participating in China’s construction of “Belt and Road”, Macao should utilise its unique advantage as a bridge connecting PSCs and assist in the “going out” of mainland enterprises. In this way, PSCs may enhance their participation in the “Belt and Road” construction through Macao. This could be achieved by developing economic and trade ties with countries along the “Belt and Road” by means of “coming in, going out,” thereby expanding overseas markets—especially the huge potential of PSCs—and development opportunities together.

The High-Level Seminar on Finance and International Co-operation for Productivity held during the 7th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (IIICF) was attended by infrastructure ministers of PSCs as well as executives of international financial institutions and contractors who have had in-depth discussions regarding enhanced co-operation on a financial and industrial capacity. Angola, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Portugal have sent delegates to the Seminar. This is one example demonstrating how Macao can make full use of its role as a service platform between China and PSCs in the area of infrastructure co-operation. The 8th IIICF will continue efforts to invite PSCs and countries along the “Belt and Road” and facilitate co-operation by organising PSC-themed activities.

Macao as the financial platform

As a free and open economy with a stable investment environment, low tax rate, free entry and exit of funds, and financial and legal systems in line with international standards, Macao has accumulated a certain level of financial strength. Coordinating with the State’s economic development policy, Macao can provide various categories of financial services, such as renminbi clearing, and arbitration and investor-investment matching enterprises from China and PSCs.

Role of the government and general public

The development orientation for Macao, as stated in China’s 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans, aims to transform Macao into the commerce and trade co-operation platform between China and PSCs. To achieve this goal, a collaborated effort from each and every sector of Macao society is needed. How do we help society comprehend how this could assist Macao to establish a moderate diversified economy and integrate into the nation’s development strategy which could benefit local small and medium enterprises development and career planning for young professionals. Encouraging a group mentality and uniting different sectors of society will create a ‘win-win’ situation. It is imperative to the success of the platform that its benefits are promoted publicly so that society collectively grasps this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The future of the platform

It is a responsibility delivered to Macao by the nation as well as a gift presented to Macao.

With Macao entering a new period of economic adjustment, it is believed that all sectors of our society recognise the importance of a diversified economy. Furthermore, it is extremely crucial for future development to figure out how to exert the unique advantages of Macao and elevate the status and promote the functions of Macao in national economic development and opening-up process.

Committing to supporting Macao to build the Sino-Portuguese commerce and trade co-operation service platform is again clearly stated in the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan. Macao should fully grasp this opportunity to make good use of the national support policies, particularly bonding with the nation’s construction strategy of “Belt and Road” Initiative building strategy and the 13th Five-Year Plan, and strengthening and accelerating the construction of the “Sino-Portuguese Platform” on the basis of progresses made.

Aside from the Macao government’s efforts to promote construction of the “Commerce and Trade Service Platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries,” we encourage local enterprises, professionals and young people in all circles of society to improve their knowledge and understanding of these new initiatives, which will likely provide both residents and companies with new opportunities. We are determined to make the best of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Macao. (Macao Magazine)

MACAUHUB FRENCH