New Year arrives with trade and projects on the rise between China and Portuguese-speaking countries

3 January 2011

Macau, China, 3 Jan – China and the Portuguese-speaking countries have started the new year with trade on the rise and a number of important projects under preparation, following the recent ministerial meeting of Forum Macau.

After a drop of nearly 19 percent in 2009, which was still smaller than the drop in international trade in a crisis year, trade between China and the eight Portuguese-speaking countries rose almost 50 percent in the first 11 months of 2010, to US$83.36 billion, according to the latest figures from China’s Customs Administration.

The biggest rise were posted in trade with East Timor (80 percent) and the two main Chinese trading partners in the Portuguese-speaking world – Angola (57.8 percent) and Brazil (476.8 percent), although trade with both Portugal and Mozambique also rose by more than a third.

Trade with Sao Tome and Principe posted a rise of almost 8 percent, which was better than Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, which saw trade drop.

A new plan of action for economic and trade cooperation for the 2010-2013 period, outlining a rise in trade to US$100 billion over the next three years, was one of the most important results of the 3rd ministerial conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries, which Macau hosted in November.

The amount of subsidised loans from china is set to double against the previous Plan of Action, with new loans to the value of 1.6 billion yuan (US$240 million) over the next three years.

The prime minister of China, Wen Jiabao announced the creation of a US$1 billion fund to develop financial cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.

The participating ministers also made the decision that Forum Macau would put together a database of investment opportunities in all the member nations that would also include information in areas of business interest, such as administrative procedures for import/export.

An Investment Working Group, coordinated by the Forum’s permanent secretariat, is also due to be created.

In the area of human resources, China will train 1,500 staff and technicians from the Portuguese-speaking countries, at the new Forum Macau Training Centre, with the logistical and financial support of the Macau government.

China will also help all the Portuguese-speaking African countries to carry out an agricultural project.

Last year was also marked by China’s willingness to support Portugal, which is facing a difficult financial situation, by buying up Portuguese sovereign debt.

Portugal’s Finance Minister, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, met in December with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Xuren in Beijing, and with the governor of the Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan.

On a company level, Geocapital, the stake-holding company linked to Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho, was once again a highlight, launching the process of integrating the banks it has been acquiring in Portuguese-speaking African countries.

The integration of the banks into a network aims to make financial relations between the countries easier and improve the internationalisation prospects of their respective countries, according to the Africa Monitor newsletter.

The first banks to become part of the network will be Banco da África Ocidental, of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde’s Caixa Económica.

At a time when it is set to launch banking services in East Timor, via Banco Timorense de Investimento, Geocapital also has stakes in Angola’s Banco Privado do Atlântico and Mozambique’s Moza Banco.

Cape Verde and Mozambique were under the spotlight in the latest edition of the World Bank’s “Doing Business” survey, with significant improvements in their business climates over the last year.

Thanks to the computerisation of the licensing system, the elimination of some taxes and other factors, the Cape Verdean archipelago saw a rise of 10 places compared to the previous year, to 132nd out of 183 countries, and was amongst the top ten countries in terms of greatest improvement in the last year. (macauhub)