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A Forum Macao delegation headed by Secretary-General Xu Yingzhen visited on December 3 the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak. Mr Ruak welcomed the group to the Government Palace, discussing with the guests the country’s economic situation and the Government’s plans and outlook.

The Government’s policy priorities and national budget are currently being assessed by the National Parliament. Timor-Leste is facing a key period in terms of its economic growth, with local authorities currently focused on the development of strategic sectors such as energy, infrastructure, and scientific and technological innovation. A number of infrastructure and productive-capacity projects are at the planning stage, with funding available via the Petroleum Fund of Timor-Leste. The Government of Timor-Leste is also open to foreign investment in these projects and hopes to engage partners from Mainland China and Macao through Forum Macao.

Secretary-General Ms Xu thanked the Prime Minister for receiving the Forum Macao delegation. She expressed her congratulations to Timor-Leste for the establishment of the Oecusse Special Social Market Economy Zone and for the development of a number of infrastructure projects.

Secretary-General Ms Xu then made a presentation. It covered respectively: the development of Forum Macao over the last 15 years since its creation; the activities to mark the 15th anniversary of the establishment of Forum Macao; a third-party evaluation of Forum Macao’s achievements since its creation; and the work of Forum Macao related respectively to trade and investment promotion, exchanges between provinces and municipalities, cooperation on productive capacity, cultural exchanges, and training of people in order to develop human resources capacity.

The head of the Forum Macao delegation thanked the Government of Timor-Leste for participating actively in the activities of Forum Macao, as well as for having sent high-level delegations to past editions of the Forum Macao Ministerial Conferences, where delegation members had signed documents on cooperation, such as the “Strategic Plan for Economic and Trade Cooperation”.

Ms Xu added that Forum Macao and Timor-Leste had a number of similar characteristics, including having relatively brief histories, given that Forum Macao was created 15 years ago, and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was established 16 years ago. She added that both Forum Macao and Timor-Leste faced similar missions and development challenges. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, and the advancement of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, offered Portuguese-speaking Countries such as Timor-Leste new opportunities for cooperation with China, Ms Xu noted.

She encouraged Timor-Leste and its official representatives to take full advantage of the role of Macao as a Service Platform for Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries, and to step up participation in Forum Macao activities, in order to intensify cooperation in various areas between China and Timor-Leste.

The Secretary-General additionally gave a presentation on the preparatory works for the upcoming 6th Ministerial Conference, mentioning a tentative date in 2020 for the event. Ms Xu said she would like to have Timor-Leste’s active participation in the preparatory work, and suggested Prime Minister Ruak lead a delegation to join the event.

During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on a number of topics, including: e-commerce; the Sino-Portuguese Young Start-ups and Innovation Centre; and the Portuguese-speaking Countries Food Product Exhibition Centre. Also attending the meeting were: Deputy Secretary-General Rodrigo Brum; the Economic and Trade Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Timor-Leste, Liu Zhenhua; the Representative of Timor-Leste in Forum Macao, Danilo Henriques; and a representative from the China and Portuguese-speaking Countries Co-operation and Development Fund.

The delegation then met with the Minister of Public Works, Salvador Soares dos Reis Pires. During the meeting, Ms Xu gave a presentation on Forum Macao’s work on promotion of cooperation in productive capacity and infrastructure, and invited the Minister to join the International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum held annually in Macao. She also suggested that Timor-Leste continue to send staff to join workshops and seminars organised by Forum Macao, in order to enhance exchanges and cooperation on infrastructure between the two parties. At the same time, the Secretary-General proposed that Timor-Leste provide a list of cooperation projects for the Permanent Secretariat to promote, in order to help East Timorese companies seek suitable partners.

Minister Mr Pires gave a detailed overview of the planning and development status of several projects in Timor-Leste, namely involving road systems, power supply networks, urban planning, and water treatment, He noted that several of the projects would be launched during 2019. The Minister expressed hope that more partners from Mainland China and Macao could get involved in projects in Timor-Leste through Forum Macao.

In the afternoon, the delegation was received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dionísio da Costa Babo Soares. During the meeting, Ms Xu made a presentation on the overall development and work of Forum Macao, noting that this year marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the body. She explained Forum Macao is a multilateral mechanism working in a complementary and reciprocal way with existing bilateral channels, and providing key contributions for the development of bilateral relations between China and Timor-Leste, particularly in the field of economic and trade cooperation. In addition, the Secretary-General thanked the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Ambassador of Timor-Leste in China and the country’s Representative in Forum Macao for their ongoing support for the work of Forum Macao. Ms Xu also expressed hope that Mr Soares would continue to help coordinate and support the preparatory work for the 6th Ministerial Conference, an event it is expected to take place in 2020.

Mr Soares expressed great appreciation for the results achieved so far by Forum Macao and noted that the long-standing historical and cultural ties between Timor-Leste and Macao facilitated trade between the two sides. He expressed his readiness to continue to participate actively in activities related to Forum Macao, namely by coordinating accordingly the work of relevant departments in his portfolio.

Other Timor-Leste representatives attending the meeting included: the Secretary-General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; the Director-General for Bilateral Affairs; and the Director of the Asian Affairs Division. A presentation was made on the participation of an East Timorese delegation at the 2018 China International Import Expo in Shanghai, and on the positive outcome of the same delegation’s visit to the city of Zhuhai.

In addition, the Forum Macao delegation attended a ceremony in which Charlestrong Engineering Technology and Consulting (Macau) Ltd handed over keys for homes in a social housing construction project. The delegation also toured the site.