Initially labelled “One Belt, One Road” (Pinyin – yi dai yi lu) to appeal to its objective of reviving the ancient network of trade routes that connected the East with the West – the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. It is worth remembering that the Silk Road (a modern terminology that derives from the secular profitable trade in silk) played an important role in the development of China (especially during the Han dynasty) and the other regions involved, an objective that its promotors are seeking to emulate.
The initiative later changed its designation to the current “Belt and Road” reportedly to convey the idea that it is not limited to the two ancient routes above referred and the regions that it encompassed, having truly a global outlook. Although its strategy has been widely reported, it was most recently featured in the Forum held in Beijing early this month, namely during President Xi’s speech, which made clear the “win-win” model of the initiative with the aim of promoting trade (and thus countering protectionism) and enhancing cooperation.
The main component of the initiative is the much needed massive infrastructure investment in the countries along the old Silk Road, which is certain to spur trade within the region, with China having pledged already more than one hundred billion US dollars and estimating a total investment of three trillion US dollars.
Back when Premier Li Keqiang visited Macau in October 2016, he affirmed that Macau can play its part with respect to the investment in the Portuguese-speaking countries, a role which Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has affirmed the intention to fully embrace, aside from the remaining opportunities arising from this initiative to Macau. In fact, there are considerable advantages in using Macau (a former Portuguese enclave) as a platform for the investment and development of relationships with the Portuguese-speaking countries, with whom it has historical and cultural similarities.
In that regard, one of the focus designated for Macau has been the provision of legal and cultural services for the Portuguese-speaking countries, which is not only due to the fact that the Portuguese language remains an official language in Macau, but also constitutes the inherent strength and advantage of our legal system. In fact, the importance of the legal aspect is undeniable when making an investment and it can also positively (or otherwise) affect the development of trade. Accordingly, Macau law, as a blend of East and West, can clearly have a role in this initiative, which can also be complemented by the provision of arbitration services in Macau as a neutral ground for the parties involved.
Our firm has been privileged to assist Clients in their internationalisation, especially in their investments in the Portuguese-speaking countries (including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Portugal, among others), not only providing advice from a Macau law perspective, but also by connecting them with professionals from those overseas jurisdictions, with whom we have been honoured to have a close relationship.
Furthermore, our firm recently attended the conference entitled “The Belt and Road: A Catalyst for Connectivity, Convergence and Collaboration” and organized by the Hong Kong Law Society in 12 May 2017, demonstrating our willingness to also embrace the Belt and Road Initiative, namely by staying up to date with its latest developments, such as the advantages and risks that the same entail for our Clients.
We hope to leverage the said knowledge with our more than 30 years of experience in advising and assisting in Macau-related matters to serve our Clients in their ongoing and future ventures in Macau and around the world.
Manuela António / José Costa Álvares