The autonomous region of Madeira, Portugal, is positioning itself to take advantage of the New Silk Road, an opportunity to capture Chinese investment and boost exports, taking advantage of factors such as its geographical location and duty free zone.
The region’s capital, Funchal, on 24 March hosted a conference attended by the President of the Regional Government, Miguel Albuquerque, and the Chinese ambassador in Lisbon, Cai Run, on the sidelines of which an agreement was signed between the Madeira government and the Association of Friends of the New Silk Road, with a view to putting together joint initiatives to attract projects to the region.
Given the “prime location of Madeira”, the agreement aims at “its possible inclusion (in the New Road), enabling the development of promotion and internationalisation strategies for the Region in the new policy framework and trade relations between China and the European Union and third countries, particularly the Portuguese-speaking countries.”
The Association, founded in December 2016, will support the Government, particularly in “project applications and corresponding international support” in areas such as tourism and investment in general,” said the document signed by the Regional Secretary for the Economy, Tourism and Culture, Eduardo Jesus, and the president of the association, Fernanda Ilhéu.
The scheme for economic and trade stimulus, announced in 2013 by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, comprises an infrastructure plan intended to revive the ancient Silk Road between China and Europe through Central Asia, Africa and Southeast Asia.
It includes the construction of a high-speed railway network between China and Europe, covering 65 countries and 4.4 billion people, taking advantage of the already established the Silk Road Fund, worth US$40 billion.
At the conference, Ilhéu recalled the words of the former Chinese ambassador to Lisbon, Huang Songfu, who said that “Portugal positioned in the centre of the Atlantic Sea Route could have a vital role in achieving One Belt, One Road in Europe.”
He stressed that the relationship between Portugal and China was improved during the visit of former Portuguese president Cavaco Silva to Beijing in 2014, the “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” meaning “that cooperation must be comprehensive, far-reaching and in multiple areas, including the economic, scientific, technological, political and cultural fields, at both bilateral and multilateral levels and is driven by both governments and non-governmental groups.”
Ilhéu also pointed out the potential of the Madeira Free Zone – Sociedade Desenvolvimento Madeirs, which parallels the Chinese Special Economic Zones, in order to promote investment and international financial services, industrial and technological parks, technological development and tourism.
The signing of the protocol was attended by the President of the Confucius Institute at the University of Lisbon, Wang Jincheng, and various entities related to the regional government. (macauhub)