GBA + BRI = 👍

Initiatives such as the Great Bay Area or the One Belt One Road are inspiring those responsible for the Forum, due to the new perspectives that are opening up. 

MB May 2020 Special Report | Forum Macau: 17 years, old enough?  

It is not clear, at this point, how member countries of Forum Macau will benefit from the inclusion, directly or indirectly, in projects such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Great Bay Area (GBA) or the One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR), but all opinions collected by Macau Business show (great!) optimism. 

The question is, on the one hand, to understand what the Forum’s role will be in this context and, on the other, to predict whether a project like this can lose its identity with the progressive integration in the two projects. 

“I don’t think they are incompatible as they serve difference purposes. It all depends on how strategically members of the Forum Macau can position themselves and the forum to take advantage of the new initiatives,” states researcher Ana Cristina Alves, from National University of Singapore, an expert on those subjects, to Macau Business. 

The understanding of those responsible for the Forum when defending the potential of the region (GBA), is increasing the capacity to enter the Chinese market, compared to what is happening at the moment, with the Forum ‘limited’ to Macau. 

Rodrigo Brum, one of the agency’s assistant secretaries-general, has publicly defended that this integration “will certainly lead to actions to strengthen connections to the cities of the Delta.” The enthusiasm of this Forum leader went so far as to emphasize that “we have been around this topic for two decades, but at the moment we are talking about a central government initiative project, with the Beijing seal. We are talking about something that will happen.” 

Although it is the Macau Government that participates in the extra-territorial projects promoted by Mainland, and not the Forum, in 2016, at the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum Macau decided to incorporate the OBOR initiative into their Action Plan. In 2019, the construction of the Service Platform for Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries were included in the outline of the GBA Development Plan. 

For Macau, in addition to this financial services platform, the GBA Development Plan also provides for the establishment of a system of export credit guarantees and the development of a renmimbis clearing center for Portuguese-speaking countries. 

In other words, the Forum supports the role of Macau as a platform through better use of the location of the territory as an integral part of the GBA. The General Secretary of the Macau Forum, Xu Yingzhen, even said that “the Forum will cooperate with the government of Macau to strengthen cooperation with Brazil and Portugal as well as with the cities of the Greater Bay.” 

And “the role of Macau is to be the link to Portuguese-speaking countries” in this project, which will be for Portuguese-speaking countries and businessmen “one of the most important challenges when facing investments and business in China,” said Rodrigo Brum. 

Macau’s articulation with those national development strategies will further expand the breadth and depth of economic and trade cooperation between the China and PSC and will make Macau’s role as a platform more relevant, also pointed out Xu Yingzhen. 

BRI: danger? 

“Forming an economic community with PSCs, as a part of OBOR can help China further improve its worldwide economic status by exporting products, however, at the cost of weakening PSCs’ domestic economic structure and international prestige,” states a research paper signed this year by five authors, titled Simulation Analysis of the Competitive Status Between China and Portuguese-speaking countries under the background of one belt and one road initiative. 

The authors, from US universities and China, believe “this does not mean that the trade deficit is the only or main factor behind conflict, but this initiative is too sophisticated to be generalized in dealing with specific trade fields.” 

Lizhi Xing, Dawei Wang, Yan Li, Jun Guan and Xianlei Dong all understand that “a rational promotion and distribution of international productivities to enhance the competitive advantages of both China and PSCs and reduce the competitive weakness is more than necessary.” 

“A suggestion for the break through to promote the social and economic development of both parties can be to build organizations and platforms that engage international exchange and cooperation, just as what Macau has done in the past and will do in the future,” is one of the findings.