Subject: AP: China, Portugal and former colonies sign trade and cooperation agreement

China, Portugal and former colonies sign trade and cooperation agreement

October 13, 2003 7:13am Associated Press WorldStream

MACAU (AP) ­ China signed an agreement Monday with Portugal and six of its former colonies to establish closer trade ties.

China and the Portuguese-speaking countries will look at increasing trade, investment and cooperation between companies in agriculture, fishing, building, engineering, and natural resources, Portugal Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Arnaut said.

``The aim is to define concrete measures that will translate into more trade, more investment and more cooperation,' he said at the signing ceremony.

Government officials and business leaders assembled in this former Portuguese enclave on Sunday to pursue the agreement and promote Macau as a gateway between China and the Portuguese-speaking world. The meeting also was attended by Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and East Timor.

The group agreed to meet every three years.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister An Min said the agreement signed Monday would provide a ``guide for economic and trade cooperation, and to build up trust.'

Macau officials want to double annual trade between China and Portuguese-speaking countries in the next five to seven years from the current level of about US$6 billion.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told delegates that Macau's position will be further enhanced ``shortly' when a free trade agreement is signed with mainland China. Wu didn't specify a date, but local newspapers said it would happen Friday.

China and Hong Kong recently made a similar agreement aimed at lowering business costs and promoting trade and investment between the territory and mainland.

Brailizian Trade Minister Luiz Fernando Furlun said using Macau as a trade platform is smart strategy.

``China is intimidating from a military and industrial standpoint but its special regions have a different image,' he told reporters, referring to the separate status China has accorded Macau and former British colony Hong Kong.

Both territories have been allowed to preserve their free-wheeling capitalist ways as ``special administrative regions.'

Macau was returned to China in 1999 after 442 years of Portuguese rule. Although the territory has a European feel with colonial-era buildings and streets, very few of its 430,000 citizens still speak Portuguese.

Still, a top Macau trade official said the coastal city is uniquely qualified to liaise between China and the Portugese-speaking world.

``There are many professionals in the accountancy, law and legal areas with rich experiences and deep knowledge of the mainland and of the Portuguese-speaking countries,' Lee Peng-hong, president of the Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, told delegates Monday.

Another former Portuguese colony, the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, did not participate. It had been invited only as an observer because it maintains official ties with Taiwan, not China.

The Chinese government does not hold diplomatic ties with any nation that recognizes Taiwan's independence.

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