Chang Hexi leaves Forum de Macau after 8 years in office

5 August 2016

You have headed Forum Macao for more than eight years. What is the major difference between the Forum you are leaving and the one you received in 2008?

The Permanent Secretariat of Forum Macao, supported by the governments of the Macao SAR and participating countries and various local partners, has worked over the years to promote co-operation and exchanges between mainland China, Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries in the areas of the economy and trade, human resources and language and culture, among others. Considerable progress has been made to achieve the targets set out in Forum Macao’s action plan for economic and cultural co-operation, while simultaneously taking the best advantage of the Macao platform. I believe that Macao’s role as a springboard of services for trade between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries has been consolidated.

In recent years the Forum Macao Permanent Secretariat and its partners have sought to foster co-operation in different areas, implementing and publicising the China/Portuguese-speaking Countries Co-operation and Development Fund, besides supporting efforts to build ‘One Platform, Three Centres’. It has organised business meetings, among them the Young Entrepreneurs Forum, as a way to consolidate exchanges and co-operation among companies from the countries involved. The Secretariat’s efforts have also encompassed several other initiatives, including the following: the round table for provincial and municipal leaders focusing on co-operation between provinces, municipalities and districts of the Forum Macao participating countries; the conference for trade and industrial development of Jiangsu Province, Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries and activities of the respective working groups to promote sector-related co-operation; the seminar on bilingual teaching and training between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries and the high-level seminar on tourism, conventions and trade fairs between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries to promote educational exchanges, professional contacts, tourism, conventions and exhibitions; the cultural week of China and the Portuguese-speaking countries to promote exchanges and enhance mutual knowledge and ties of friendship among peoples.

The presentation sessions and thematic workshops on the Portuguese-speaking countries have provided information about the investment and business climate and priority development areas, thereby supplying a platform to companies to promote co-operation in those countries. Several symposiums for the Forum Macao training centre helped achieve closer ties among human resources in various areas, promoting co-operation between the Forum Macao countries.

Relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries have grown over the years, regarding not just financial support but also investment. In what sectors do you think this relationship will expand? Agriculture and fisheries? Infrastructures? Social support? Education? Energy?

In line with the content set out in the action plans for economic and social co-operation, the Permanent Secretariat has diversely promoted multilateral exchanges and co-operation in many different areas, making use of the Macao platform. Based on dynamic and pragmatic principles, the Secretariat has sought to innovate in its co-operation models, using that platform as a bridge for relations between participating countries. Encouraging progress and results have been obtained. For example, in the agricultural area, the holding of the first meeting of the working group for promotion of agricultural co-operation of the conference on trade and industrial development of Jiangsu Province, Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries, which decided on an annual activities programme and resulted in the signing of co-operation agreements between Jiangsu province and those countries, namely Angola and Brazil. In the fisheries area support was given to companies and services from Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces for visits to look into co-operation prospects in Timor-Leste, Guinea-Bissau and Angola. Regarding infrastructures, on the sidelines of the International Forum on Investment and Construction of Infrastructures, the Permanent Secretariat held a ministerial meeting on infrastructures and a high-level seminar on finance and international co-operation for production capacity. The aim was to present to companies from mainland China and Macao the respective environments, businesses and investment policies of the Portuguese-speaking countries along with potential projects, to raise awareness about those countries. As for human resources, the Forum Macao’s training centre was used to hold symposiums in Macao; co-operation with the respective MSAR government services led to the arrangement in Macao of internships destined for the Portuguese-speaking countries as well as a seminar on bilingual teaching and training, among other activities. In short, the Secretariat has pragmatically promoted co-operation in all areas between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries, as stipulated in the action plans.

Much has been accomplished in recent years in relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. But there is still a great lack of awareness about investment potentials and the creation of partnerships and businesses. Is there a pressing need to better publicise what those countries have to offer and receive? Do you believe such promotion should be reinforced in the Forum?

In recent years the Permanent Secretariat has promoted large scale exchanges and co-operation between companies from China and the Portuguese-speaking countries, actively participating in exhibitions and meetings held in Macao and mainland China, setting up the Portuguese-speaking Countries’ Pavilion to promote business and investment opportunities in those countries. The Secretariat has made major efforts to deepen knowledge and foster exchanges with companies from inside China, presenting those countries’ potentials to Chinese companies by organising contact pools, presentations sessions and lectures. One result was that they indicated a notable lack of knowledge about the Portuguese-speaking countries. The Secretariat will therefore continue efforts to raise awareness and provide Chinese companies sufficient information about those countries, thereby creating more and better co-operation opportunities.

The Co-operation and Development Fund was established in 2013 and has been insufficiently utilised. Is there a lack of information, well-grounded proposals or awareness about the Fund? Is it known in Africa, Portugal, Asia and Brazil? What should be done to ensure that this billion dollar fund is actually used as China intended?

The Permanent Secretariat has promoted the China/Portuguese-speaking Countries Co-operation and Development Fund as a stimulus, so that more ventures can be financed. The Fund is managed by its respective management body. The operational model is fairly strict regarding the documents companies must submit in applications to the Fund. The Secretariat has promoted the Fund among companies, providing support to the China Development Bank vis-à-vis the presentation of access conditions and application procedures. A Fund representative has been regularly invited to attend the Meeting of Entrepreneurs for Economic and Commercial Co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries, held annually in one of those countries, to raise awareness about the Fund. The Secretariat therefore aims to enhance promotion of the Fund among entrepreneurs in mainland China, Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries, informing them about the Fund’s current status and application procedures, so that projects that meet the Fund’s requisites can be put forward and quickly processed.

The activity of the Forum and the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) sometimes seems to overlap, even though both institutions promote the Macao platform in relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. Do you believe there should be more distinction between what each is doing?

The Forum Macao Permanent Secretariat, the IPIM and the respective MSAR public services have been enthusiastic about building the services platform for trade co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. The Secretariat and the IPIM pursue common co-operation goals, taking advantage of the Macao platform and mutually supporting each other and closely co-ordinating actions, specifically to foster business co-operation and exchanges. In the efforts to promote and enhance co-operation between companies from China, the Portuguese-speaking countries and Macao, the IPIM has played a key role in various activities in line with its specific focus. Last year the Permanent Secretariat and the IPIM organised several workshops on the Portuguese-speaking countries, where those countries’ delegates at Forum Macao were able to present their countries to the attending entrepreneurs from mainland China and Macao. In the process of building and consolidating ‘One Platform, Three Centres’, the Secretariat worked very closely with the IPIM to launch the Economic, Trade and Human Resources Portal, which began operating on 1 April 2015, and also on the official opening of the Exhibition Centre for Food Products from the Portuguese-speaking Countries last 31 March.

What are the Forum’s main tasks with respect to the development plan for Macao and southern China?

Macao has striven to build the services platform for trade co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries and maintains close co-operation ties with several provinces in southern China. In accordance with guidelines of the action plan for economic and trade co-operation, the Permanent Secretariat seeks to actively promote economic and trade co-operation in all areas of interest for the respective stakeholders by making good use of Macao’s advantages, namely the language, culture and business climate.

Do you believe the pan-Pearl River Delta (9+2) is the region of China where small and medium sized enterprises from Portuguese-speaking countries should concentrate their efforts? Because major investments and business pass through Beijing and not Macao. Shouldn’t this be a priority area so that entrepreneurs from China and the Portuguese-speaking countries can come into contact?

The Permanent Secretariat’s main mission is to promote business co-operation between enterprises from mainland China and the Portuguese-speaking countries by means of the Macao platform. The region plays a key role in economic and trade exchanges between China and those countries, making best use of its cultural and linguistic advantages and the intermediation of local firms familiar with the respective markets. The pan-Pearl River Delta and Macao regions work closely to achieve the prospects for promising co-operation with the Portuguese-speaking countries. With respect to the Permanent Secretariat, every effort will be made to boost co-operation with the pan-Pearl River Delta Region and other Chinese provinces interested in exploring markets in Portuguese-speaking countries. To that end, the Permanent Secretariat has established contacts within the Delta region and with companies from various provinces. As a result, after organising several presentations on business and investment climates in the Portuguese-speaking countries, some companies organised exploratory visits and began dialogue with partners about possible ways to work together. We hope that more companies can enter those countries’ markets, making good use of the Macao platform.

Forum Macao has organised training programmes for the Portuguese-speaking countries. How do you assess results of those programmes and what do you think should be done in that area?

Under the action plans and following the creation of the Forum Macao training centre, five or six thematic symposiums have been held each year on subjects of mutual interest such as infrastructures, environmental protection, business law and public administration, among others. A total of 31 such symposiums have been held, with participation of 791 trainees. The aim is to enhance co-operation and exchanges between mainland China, Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries, where they have been much appreciated. The Secretariat will continue to consolidate and improve training in this area.

Your relationship with Macao, Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking countries has been the focus of your career over the last 30 years. How do you see Macao’s role in southern China and the growing links with Guangdong province?

Macao is in the phase of building ‘One Centre and One Platform’. By means of its specific linguistic and cultural advantages and the close ties with Portuguese-speaking countries and the promotion of economic and trade exchanges between them, mainland China and Macao, its role as a platform will be increasingly consolidated and enriched. Forum Macao is a multilateral co-operation mechanism that is also complementary in the area of bilateral co-operation. I’m convinced that this mechanism can make a major contribution to boosting the role of the Macao platform, raising businesses’ awareness of the Portuguese-speaking countries and exploring more co-operation opportunities via multilateral exchanges arranged through Forum Macao.

It’s hard to predict the future, but how do you think Forum Macao will evolve as a platform in relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries?

Forum Macao has been in existence for 13 years. With the support of the respective governments of the participating countries and the Macao SAR and the various sectors involved, along with the joint effort of the Permanent Secretariat’s staff, the Forum’s participating countries have been achieving via the Macao platform multilateral exchanges with enriched content and various forms of co-operation, consolidating over the years this role that Macao plays. With the holding of the fifth ministerial conference, Forum Macao’s goals will be increasingly oriented to pragmatism and its role and functions ever more relevant. (Macauhub)