Promise to be fulfilled

Three years have passed since the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute announced its intention to open delegations in Lusophone countries. Meanwhile, HKTDC has turned to Africa, with its eyes on Belt and Road opportunities.

IPIM, through executive member Gloria Batalha Ung, began by announcing the opening of a delegation in the Portuguese capital. 

We were in 2015 and the manager of the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute wanted to be more specific: the delegation in Lisbon would be operational in less than a year, by March 2016. 

After a few months, it became known that the delegation would work in the Macau Economic and Trade Office building in Lisbon – but it was to be the last thing we learned about this project. 

Or rather, the last thing we knew about the intention of opening an office in Lisbon, because the plans were wider. 

Still in 2015, the same IPIM executive member revealed that the expansion plans would also include São Paulo, the economic capital of Brazil. And it would secure Lisbon, probably still in 2016 or early 2017. 

The idea was that in the initial phase both offices would support local businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, who wished to conduct business in Portuguese-speaking countries.  

“There was a growing number of companies, both local and from Mainland China, interested in expanding or doing business both in Portugal and Brazil,” said Ms. Ung. 

And to complete the expansion project it was further revealed that after Portugal and Brazil it would be time for the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. In this case, neither dates nor places were revealed, although Angola and Mozambique were in pole positions. 

All this news was announced in the last quarter of 2015 – but almost three years later nothing has materialised. 

Macau Business contacted IPIM for clarification but the Institute opted for silence. 

If it is too obvious that the expansion plan outside China has not progressed or will advance (the matter has simply been part of the statements made by IPIM officials) it is less clear why it disappeared from the agenda a few months after being announced. 

Macau Business has been searching for information in the Institute’s annual activity reports available on its website, but here again there is no indication of anything that, in fact, seems to have ever existed. 

In the span of three years IPIM has opened two more representative offices in China: in Guangzhou (the second in Guangdong Province) and Wuhan (Hebei Province). There are now six liaison offices or, in the two most recent cases, representative offices, on the Mainland. 

Hong Kong turns to Africa 

IPIM’s withdrawal from implementing an expansion plan for the Portuguese-speaking countries, fulfilling the expectations announced by the Chinese leadership, comes at a time when the Hong Kong trade promotion agency is turning to Africa. 

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council has about 40 offices in cities on all continents (São Paulo is one of them…) but Africa has been the most overlooked – there is only one delegation in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

The situation, however, seems to be changing. 

Recently, the ‘Hong Kong-Kenya Gateway to Global Markets and Investment Opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative’ was held in the capital of Kenya with the aim of promoting ‘Hong Kong and Kenya as investment hubs that can be leveraged by entrepreneurs worldwide.’ 

Raymond Yip, Deputy Executive Director of the HKTDC, as quoted by China Daily, said: “Africa is a new market that remains unfamiliar to private Chinese investors. We are searching for new markets and emerging opportunities. We want to diversify while also encouraging African importers to use our platform to reach other markets.” 

The point is that a possible expansion of IPIM for Portuguese-speaking countries would not only strengthen Macau as a platform in these markets but could leverage Macau’s strategy under the Belt and Road Initiative. 

This is, after all, what Hong Kong is doing: “Belt and Road opportunities arise from reinvigoration of the seamless flow of capital, goods and services between Hong Kong in China and the rest of the world, promoting further market integration and forging new ties among communities,” according to Mr. Yip, for whom the project “offers global businesses, from multinational to small and medium-sized enterprises, [and] unparalleled opportunities to tap into new markets along the Belt and Road routes and gain access to markets on the Chinese Mainland and in the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe.”