Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to gather with all the friends here in the beautiful Macao and attend the Third Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries. I would like to express, on behalf of the Chinese government, warm congratulations on the convocation of the meeting and pay high tribute to all the people who have long been committed to advancing the economic cooperation and trade between the two sides.
This Forum has served as an important platform and bond for mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. It has given full play to Macao's unique advantage as a bridge between the two sides and boosted our exchanges and cooperation with a focus on economy and trade.
In 2003 when the Forum was founded, trade between the two sides was just a bit over US$10 billion. It surged to US$77 billion in 2008 and hit the target of US$50 billion one year ahead of schedule. In the first three quarters of this year, two-way trade reached US$68.2 billion, up 57% year-on-year, showing strong vitality. Today, coffee, cashews, wine and other famous products from the Portuguese-speaking countries are becoming more and more popular in China. And quality yet inexpensive consumer goods from China have enriched the markets of the Portuguese-speaking countries and have been well received by their people.
Since the inception of the Forum, two-way investment between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries has rapidly expanded. By the end of 2009, Portuguese-speaking countries had set up over 700 companies in China with a total investment of more than US$500 million. China's investment in these countries is also burgeoning, and the total volume has exceeded US$1 billion. The ever-growing investment between the two sides has brought us the applicable technologies that we each need, supported our economic development and improved the lives of the people.
China's assistance to some of the developing Portuguese-speaking countries has benefited the local people. Since the founding of the Forum, China has provided a total of 3.56 billion RMB yuan of assistance to Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Timor Leste, and cancelled 230 million yuan of debts associated with interest-free government loans. A number of signature projects that China built, such as the Poilao Dam in Cape Verde, the national stadium in Mozambique, the friendship hospital in Guinea-Bissau and the government office buildings in Timor Leste, have become symbols of friendship between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries and produced good economic and social returns.
Cooperation between the two sides has gradually extended from economy and trade to education, culture and other fields. Our cooperation in human resources development, in particular, has been greatly enhanced. Up to now, China has held over 200 workshops of various kinds and trained over 2,100 officials and technicians for the Portuguese-speaking countries, including the over 1,400 people trained in the recent three years, overfulfilling the target set at the second ministerial conference of the Forum.
What is worth noting is that thanks to the Forum, economic and trade ties between Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries have also been strengthened. Macao has signed MOUs on financial cooperation with most of the Portuguese-speaking countries. Companies from Macao are now active in all the Portuguese-speaking countries, and commodities from Macao have entered the markets of the EU, South America and Africa through those countries. Some companies from the Portuguese-speaking countries have set up factories in Macao where they process coffee imported from Brazil and Timor Leste and then export the finished products to China's mainland under the preferential policies of CEPA, reaping handsome returns. The government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) fully supports the development of the Forum and supports the Forum in carrying out various kinds of economic and trade activities. It has taken active steps to train professionals in finance and tourism management and continuously increased scholarships for the Portuguese-speaking countries. These steps have been much welcomed by those countries.
Past progress shows that the Forum is both a bridge for cooperation and a bridge of friendship. It has not only produced real economic benefits for both sides, but also brought China and the Portuguese-speaking countries closer, deepened the friendship between our peoples and enhanced the amicable ties between our countries.
The economies of China and the Portuguese-speaking countries are highly complementary and stronger business ties serve the fundamental interests of both sides. This is essential to the dynamic growth of economic cooperation and trade between the two sides. As our economies rapidly grow, our common interests have been expanding and our mutual needs increasing. Businesses of the two sides have a stronger desire in mutual learning and exchanges. Our business cooperation enjoys bright prospects. We should follow the principles of equality and mutual benefit, drawing on each other's strengths and seeking common development through diversified cooperation, and further broaden the areas, innovate the ways and enrich the content of our cooperation. We should work together to tackle the various challenges in the post-fmancial-crisis world and push forward our economic cooperation on a larger scale, in broader areas and at a higher level. The Action Plan for Economic and Commercial Cooperation to be adopted at this ministerial conference will set out many useful suggestions and specific measures in this regard. Here, I would like to stress the following important aspects:
First, increase bilateral trade. The products from China and the Portuguese-speaking countries have their respective advantages and there is much potential for the further growth of our bilateral trade. We should open our markets wider to each other, reduce trade barriers, step up policy coordination, jointly oppose trade protectionism and work hard to raise our trade volume to US$100 billion by 2013. It is important that we pay high attention to improving the trade structure and raise the share of trade in electro-mechanical goods, high-tech products and services in overall trade. China is willing to buy more from these countries and phase in zero-tariff treatment to the overwhelming majority of the commodities imported from the Portuguese-speaking countries in Asia and Africa. We will encourage the businesses to raise finance for trade, host more commodity fairs for the Portuguese-speaking countries and provide convenience for their products to enter the Chinese market.
Second, promote two-way investment. Compared with what we have achieved in trade, we have not fully unleashed the potential of two-way investment. We need to improve the laws and regulations on mutual investment, remove investment barriers, facilitate negotiations on bilateral investment protection treaties and treaties on avoiding double taxation, and carry out investment promotion activities in multiple forms so that the two-way investment will achieve substantive growth as soon as possible. We should continue to enhance our investment cooperation on infrastructure, telecommunications, energy, agriculture and natural resources development, and encourage the small and medium-sized enterprises to cooperate through multiple channels. Chinese enterprises are competitive and experienced in infrastructure construction, while the Portuguese-speaking countries have big markets. This can become a new growth area in our cooperation. China supports competent Chinese enterprises in making investment in the Portuguese-speaking countries and welcomes companies from the Portuguese-speaking countries to start businesses in China in pursuit of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes.
Third, actively explore new areas of cooperation. Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries should not be limited to such traditional areas as economy and trade, human resources and infrastructure. It should be expanded to new areas. Both China and the Portuguese-speaking countries are rich in tourism resources and our cooperation in this field has broad prospects. China will promote tourism resources of the Portuguese-speaking countries and support more Portuguese-speaking countries in getting the Approved Destination Status (ADS) for Chinese tourists. Businesses and the general public of the two sides have a strong desire for transport cooperation. Governments should create conditions and support the businesses in establishing convenient and smooth logistic networks and opening more direct flights. We should deepen financial cooperation, increase exchanges between our central banks and regulatory authorities, facilitate cooperation between policy and commercial banks, and encourage the establishment of branches of banks in each other's countries at appropriate times with a view to providing important support for our economic cooperation and trade. At the same time, we should make active efforts to expand practical cooperation in education, culture, health, sports and other social programs to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples.
Fourth, bring into full play Macao's role as the cooperation platform. Macao has the unique advantage of being a place where Eastern and Western cultures meet. It has sound infrastructure, a sophisticated financial services system, a free and open business environment and a reservoir of Chinese-Portuguese bilingual professionals. Macao is becoming an important platform for economic cooperation and trade between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. The Chinese government gives full support to economic exchanges and trade between Macao and the Portuguese-speaking countries, and encourages Chinese companies to pursue various forms of exchanges and cooperation with their counterparts from those countries via the platform of Macao. We hope that the participating countries of the Forum will continue to make good use of this platform and strive for even closer business ties. The Macao SAR government should continue to give full play to its advantages, provide good services for the implementation of the goals of the Forum, and make the Forum a bridge for the business exchanges and friendly cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The eight brothers of this Forum are at different stages of development. To help the developing Portuguese-speaking countries achieve faster development and shake off poverty is our common responsibility. China values its friendship with the Portuguese-speaking countries, and stands ready to play its part in meeting this responsibility. The Chinese government will take the following measures over the 2010-2013 period:
First, financial institutions from the Chinese mainland and Macao will initiate a US$1 billion cooperation and development fund between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries to boost financial cooperation.
Second, provide 1.6 billion RMB yuan in concessional loans under the bilateral framework to the Asian and African members of the Forum.
Third, provide materials, equipment, technical personnel and other support to one bilateral agricultural cooperation project in each Asian and African member of the Forum.
Fourth, train 1,500 officials and technical personnel for the Asian and African members of the Forum and support the Macao SAR government in establishing a training centre under the Forum in Macao.
Fifth, provide 1,000 one-year government scholarships to students from the Asian and African members of the Forum to study in China.
Sixth, provide medical equipment and devices worth 10 million RMB yuan to each Asian and African member of the Forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A philosophical saying in Portuguese reads, "Cooperation is the port of life". To advance the economic cooperation and trade between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries is in the fundamental interest of both sides. It meets the call of our times and the wish of our people. I sincerely hope that all the participating countries of the Forum will follow the historical trend and the will of the people, promote common development through diversified cooperation, make the Forum a high-quality one with distinctive features and practical results, and work together to write a new chapter in our economic cooperation and trade.
I wish this ministerial conference full success.