Policemen patrol outside the venue of the opening ceremony for the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries in Macao, south China, Oct. 8, 2016. The conference will be held in Macao on Oct. 11-12. (Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)
Macao will open the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries (PSCs) on Tuesday.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend the opening ceremony of the meeting.
The Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries was created in October 2003 in Macao.
It was sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of China, hosted by the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) government and with the joint participation of seven PSCs: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and East Timor.
"Since the establishment of the forum, Macao plays a role as a bridge of economic cooperation and peoples' friendship," said Ye Guiping, a council member of Research Center for Development Strategy of Macao.
"The forum has brought economic profit to the Chinese mainland, Macao and Portuguese-speaking countries, strengthened the relationship between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, and deepened friendship among their peoples," Ye added.
Since 2003, four ministerial conferences have been held with each one concluding with an Action Plan for Economic and Commercial Cooperation to consolidate the targets and goals of the meetings.
The implementation of those action plans not only boosted the cooperation between China and PSCs, but also made Macao well known for its role as a platform.
In November 2013 when the fourth ministerial conference was held, the Chinese government promoted the development of "an information-sharing platform for bilingual professionals and business cooperation, as well as exchanges and interaction between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries."
In the meantime, in the Economic and Trade Cooperation Action Plan (2014-2016), all participating countries agreed to establish three centers for economic and trade cooperation between China and PSCs in Macao. These are a commercial and trade service center for small- and medium-sized enterprises between China and PSCs, a food product distribution center for PSCs, and a center for conventions and exhibitions for economic and trade cooperation between China and PSCs.
The forum and all those implementation measures have accelerated trade development between China and PSCs.
Trade volume between the two sides reached 133 billion U.S. dollars in 2014, 12 times of the figure in 2003.
The annual increase rate of import and export volume between the two sides during that period is 28.4 percent, much higher than the rate of China's foreign trade increase of the same period.
In 2015, when international commodity prices tumbled sharply, trade between China and PSCs fell too, but the figure still reached 98 billion dollars, 9 times of the volume in 2003.
Besides trade, the forum also brought benefit to educational and cultural exchanges between China and PSCs.
According to the Macao SAR Government Policy Research Office, over 7,000 officials and engineers from the Portuguese-speaking countries have participated in the training program sponsored by the Chinese government.
In Macao alone, a training center affiliated under the forum has launched training programs on infrastructure construction, environment protection, commercial laws and public administration every year. Nearly 800 trainees from PSCs have finished their courses.
"The training programs have benefits in many ways. Portuguese-speaking people begin to know Macao and its role as a platform by those programs. Macao also established connections among those trainees in different sectors in different countries, which are very helpful for future cooperation," said Secretary General of the forum Xu Yingzhen.
Xu added that the upcoming fifth ministerial conference will bring in the concept of "Belt and Road," with focuses on cooperation, platform building and results sharing.
All participating countries will benefit from this forum, especially common people of those countries.
Xu took food products from PSCs as an example.
Noting that nowadays Chinese consumers need more high quality food imported from abroad, she said she believed the food product distribution center for Portuguese-speaking countries in Macao can well serve that need by introducing safe and good food products from PSCs into China's market.
Resident representatives from PSCs to Macao also agree that the forum should expand its function from facilitating trade and economy to cultural exchanges, and Macao should play as a bridge to link peoples of those countries.
"I often meet Asians, Europeans and Africans in Macao, who speak Chinese, English and Portuguese," said Mario Vicente, resident representative of Cape Verde.
"In this diversified and friendly environment, I can understand China and learn its experience of development, and bring back to my country for my people to learn and get inspired," he said.
"This is as same important as doing business."