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Full text of speech by Premier Li Keqiang at Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries

Updated: Oct 12,2016 7:39 AM     Xinhua

Premier Li Keqiang (6th R) and heads of delegations pose for a group photo before the opening ceremony of the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, in Macao, South China, Oct 11, 2016.[Photo/Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang on Oct 11 delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries.

The following is the full text of his speech:

Keynote Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries

Macao, October 11, 2016

Your Excellency Prime Minister Jose Ulisses Correia e Silva of Cabo Verde,

Your Excellency Prime Minister Baciro Dja of Guinea-Bissau,

Your Excellency Prime Minister Carlos do Rosario of Mozambique,

Your Excellency Prime Minister Antonio Costa of Portugal,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to meet you in the beautiful city of Macao and attend the opening ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries. On behalf of the Chinese government, let me extend warm congratulations on the opening of the conference and sincerely welcome all guests coming from afar. I would also like to pay high tribute to all those who have long been committed to friendship and cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

As is known to visitors of this city, bridges are the backbone for Macao. They are vital to economic development as well as people’s work and life. Macao used to be the proud home of Asia’s longest bridge, the Ponte de Amizade (Bridge of Friendship) which was completed in 1994. Now, together with Hong Kong and Zhuhai, Macao has just set a new record of the longest cross-sea bridge in the world. The bridge linking the three cities extends over an unprecedented 55 kilometers.

I must add that there is an even longer “cross-ocean bridge” in Macao, i.e. the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries. It is certainly there, though invisible. With language and culture as the bond, business cooperation as the theme, and common development as the objective, this forum has sought to fully leverage the unique strengths of Macao and played an important role in further strengthening the links between China and the seven Portuguese-speaking countries. I am sure it will continue to do so in the future.

Last year, the trade volume between China and Portuguese-speaking countries reached nearly $100 billion. China has become a leading trade partner and the fastest growing main export market for Portuguese-speaking countries. China is home to nearly one thousand companies set up by Portuguese-speaking countries, and has invested close to $50 billion and contracted projects worth over $90 billion in these countries. The two sides have also conducted fruitful cooperation in agriculture, environmental protection, transport, telecommunications and finance.

Facilitated by the forum, China and Portuguese-speaking countries have intensified exchanges at various levels. Political mutual trust and high-level exchanges have increased. Subnational cooperation has kept a strong momentum. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Portuguese-speaking countries is growing fast. The two sides have also enhanced educational and cultural contacts. The Portuguese and Chinese languages have become increasingly popular in each other’s country. Portuguese is now taught in over 20 Chinese universities. And 17 Confucius institutes have been set up in Portuguese-speaking countries. Well-known artistic works, such as samba, fado, Butterfly Lovers and Jasmine Flower have helped deepen mutual understanding and friendship among our peoples.

The world we live in has been going through profound changes both politically and economically. World economic recovery remains sluggish, marked by deep adjustment in commodity prices, lackluster trade and investment and rising protectionism in various forms. All these have posed severe challenges to the development of all countries.

The G20 Hangzhou Summit held successfully in September reached broad consensus on issues centering around the theme of the Summit: “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy.” The Summit called for building an open world economy, rejecting protectionism in all forms, reviving the engines of international trade and investment, and making sure that economic growth in a globalized world deliver opportunities to more people.

Together, China and Portuguese-speaking countries account for 17 percent of the economic output and 22 percent of the population of the world. We have respective strengths in capital, technology, resources and market and are both located at main international shipping lanes. China’s Belt and Road initiative is highly compatible with the development plans of many Portuguese-speaking countries. In the new era, China and Portuguese-speaking countries enjoy more shared interests and have a greater stake in each other’s success. China is ready to work with Portuguese-speaking countries to consolidate business relations and set a good example of friendship and cooperation among countries with different social systems and cultural backgrounds and at different development stages.

We should enhance political mutual trust, which provides firm basis for practical cooperation. Our relationship is now better than ever. In a spirit of mutual respect, equality and win-win cooperation, China is ready to work with Portuguese-speaking countries to further intensify high-level exchanges and mutual support on issues concerning each other’s major interests, properly handle differences, and foster a sound, stable and forward-looking partnership.

We should advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. Despite some setbacks, economic globalization is still an irreversible trend. It can help improve the division of labor among countries, increase efficiency, and expand the market. It has brought more choices of goods to consumers and increased the well-being of the people, thus serving the long-term interests of all countries. China is ready to join hands with Portuguese-speaking countries to expand mutual market openness, boost cooperation in customs, inspection and quarantine, and certification and accreditation, strengthen IPR protection, and foster an enabling trade and investment climate. China does not pursue trade surpluses with Portuguese-speaking countries. We will actively implement the policy of zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of tax items of some Portuguese-speaking countries, increase imports from your countries, and support e-commerce between businesses of the two sides, with a view to further tapping the potential of trade growth.

We should expand cooperation on production capacity. The countries you represent are mostly in an important phase of industrialization and share an urgent need to improve infrastructure and industrial system. China has a full-fledged manufacturing structure, cost-effective equipment-making capacity, a strong construction sector and fast-growing outbound investment. Closer cooperation on production capacity provides an efficient way to complement each other’s strengths and achieve win-win results. I am glad we will be signing an MOU on production capacity cooperation at this forum.

China is ready to leverage the Silk Road Fund, the cooperation and development fund for China and Portuguese-speaking countries and other financing platforms to get major cooperation projects started as soon as possible. Cooperation on production capacity can be bilateral or tripartite. China hopes to engage Portuguese-speaking countries in various forms of tripartite cooperation by following market principles and respecting each other’s will and aim for tangible results and win-win outcomes. China and Portugal have jointly engaged in successful tripartite cooperation in a third Portuguese-speaking country. Hopefully, the useful experience of such cooperation will be duplicated and lead to new success stories elsewhere.

We should strengthen people-to-people and cultural exchanges. China hopes to deepen cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries in education, science and technology, culture, health, sports and youth to make these exchanges a new highlight in our cooperation. China will continue to help Portuguese-speaking countries in Asia and Africa upgrade educational and cultural facilities, expand the coverage of Confucius Institutes and set up more China culture centers and other cultural exchange platforms in your countries. China is ready to intensify cooperation on human resource development through the Academy of South-South Cooperation and Development and the training center of this forum in Macao. Both China and Portuguese-speaking countries are rich in tourism resources. China is willing to extend to more forum members the status of overseas destinations for Chinese tourist groups and enhance cooperation with you in project investment and tourism promotion.

We should boost Macao’s role in our cooperation. Being bilingual, strategically located and boasting excellent infrastructure and a pro-business environment, Macao is an important bridge linking China and Portuguese-speaking countries. The Chinese government will give Macao every support in playing its role as a focal point in the Belt and Road initiative, and facilitate its efforts to set up service platforms for business cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries as soon as possible and build well-functioning convention center for business cooperation, service center for SMEs and goods distribution center for Portuguese-speaking countries. All members of the forum support the idea of an annual high-level forum on international infrastructure investment and development and a ministerial dialogue on infrastructure in Macao. The building complex that will serve as the platform for our business cooperation is undergoing construction. It will offer services to trade, business talks, showcase of goods, cultural exhibits and information exchange. Once completed, it will become a new landmark for friendship and cooperation and provide high-quality facilities for cooperation platforms between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China values its friendship with Portuguese-speaking countries and is ready to provide help to those in Asia and Africa within China’s capacity. Since the launch of the forum, China has signed framework agreements to offer 6.09 billion yuan worth of concessional loans, reduced or canceled 230 million yuan worth of matured debts, and trained 7,600 professionals for Asian and African Portuguese-speaking countries. All eight assistance measures pledged by China at the last ministerial meeting have been implemented.

Now let me take this opportunity to announce major highlights of the 18 new and greater assistance measures China will implement in the next three years, which include the following:

-- No less than 2 billion yuan in grant assistance for Asian and African Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly for agriculture, trade and investment facilitation, prevention and treatment of malaria, traditional medicine research and other such projects that aim to improve people’s lives.

-- No less than 2 billion yuan in concessional loans for Asian and African Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly for linking up industries, cooperation on production capacity and deepening infrastructure cooperation.

-- Cancellation of 500 million yuan in matured interest-free debts for least developed Asian and African Portuguese-speaking countries.

--Continued sending of medical teams with 200 personnel to Asian and African Portuguese-speaking countries, twinning of hospitals among forum members and maternal and child health programs and short-term free clinical consultation services.

-- 2,000 training opportunities and 2,500 person-year Chinese government scholarships to forum members.

-- Encouragement of the setting-up and upgrading of overseas business cooperation zones in forum members by Chinese companies.

-- Building maritime meteorological monitoring stations and other facilities to tackle disasters and climate change in case of need in forum members.

Last but not least, we will support the establishment of a financial service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, an association of business leaders, a cultural exchange center, a bilingual human resource training base and a youth innovation and entrepreneurship center in Macao and offer 30 opportunities for in-service degree programs to forum members to be jointly undertaken by the Mainland and Macao.

Macao SAR will play an important role in providing the platform and supporting the implementation of these measures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many of you follow trends in the Chinese economy closely. Let me give you a briefing about latest developments. Despite the weak recovery of the world economy in recent years and growing impact of deep-seated imbalances within China, the Chinese economy has been operating within a reasonable range, achieving steady growth and continued progress in restructuring and upgrading at the same time. It remains one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world and contributes over 25 percent to world economic growth. The 6.7 percent growth in the first half of this year is by no means easy, given the size of our 10 trillion-dollar economy. The increment of 6.7 percent growth, over $800 billion a year, is in fact bigger than that generated by double-digit growth in the past, amounting to the economic aggregate of a medium-sized country.

Coming to the third quarter, the Chinese economy is not only continuing with the good momentum seen in the first half of the year, but also showing some positive changes with bigger contribution by consumption and services to the economic growth and improvement of major indicators which were previously weak or declining. Growth rate of industrial output, corporate performance and investment are all looking up. Downturn in private investment, in particular, has been curbed. Expectations have improved.

Overall, the Chinese economy this year, especially in the third quarter, has performed better than what we expected. Employment, in particular, has remained basically stable. Each year in the past three years, more than 13 million new urban jobs were created. In the first nine months of this year, the number stood at 10.67 million, maintaining this rate of job creation. In September, the surveyed urban unemployment rate in 31 big cities fell below 5 percent, the first time in recent years. For China, a big developing country of more than 1.3 billion people, employment is of primary importance. The main purpose of growth, after all, is to ensure job creation and improve people’s well-being.

Having said all this, we should not lose sight of the downward pressure the Chinese economy still faces. To keep the economy stable, we need to not only maintain aggregate demand, but also speed up supply-side structural reform to improve the quality and efficiency of the supply system. Now, there is certain talk about risks in China’s debts and the property market. These issues should be viewed objectively and put into perspective. The debt risk in China is controllable overall. The main problem now is unbalanced debt structure. China’s government debt ratio is relatively low among major economies with merely 16 percent for the central government. Though the ratio at the local levels is higher, borrowing by local governments is getting better regulated, and used mainly for development, rather than welfare handouts. Most debts are asset-backed and generate returns. The problem with leverage mainly lies in relatively high leverage ratio in non-financial companies. This is closely related to fledgling and not mature state of China’s capital market, high propensity to save with the savings rate above 50 percent, and a financing structure with banks in a predominant position. China’s debts are mostly internal and the share of external debts is low. Hence the likelihood of debt risk is also small. Our monetary policy is prudent, ensuring reasonably sufficient liquidity. And the commercial banks have high capital adequacy ratio and provision coverage ratio. Their non-performing assets ratio, despite some increase, is far below the world’s average. They have strong ability of risk compensation and loss absorption. Going forward, we will gradually bring down non-financial corporate leverage ratio and address hidden risks by developing multi-tiered capital markets, raising the share of direct financing and promoting corporate mergers and restructuring.

Talking about the property market, China’s new type of urbanization will be a long process. Given the trend of divergence in the housing market, we will urge local governments to shoulder their responsibilities and adopt city-specific policies to meet people’s basic housing needs and take effective measures that suit national and local conditions, endeavor to provide housing to all in need and ensure steady and sound development of the real estate market. We are confident that we will be able to meet the major economic and social development targets this year, forestall systemic and regional financial risks, and lay a solid foundation for stable development next year.

Over the past few years, the Chinese economy has withstood internal and external pressures and achieved steady progress and better quality. This is not done by resorting to massive stimulus. Instead, it is because of our commitment to reform and opening up and our efforts to push for innovative macro regulation, supply-side structural reform and faster shift of growth drivers. We have been streamlining administration, delegating power, strengthening regulation, and improving government services. We have been vigorously implementing the innovation-driven development strategy to boost mass entrepreneurship and innovation. Since last year, there have been more than 40,000 new entities entering the market every day, among which 12,000 are newly-registered companies. From January to August this year, the number of newly-registered companies per day reached 15,000. New technologies, new industries and new business models are growing at a faster pace and many traditional industries are coming back to life. New growth drivers are rising, traditional growth drivers are being upgraded, and the quality of growth is improving. All this has shown enormous creativity in the market and the society. Looking ahead, with big potential, solid advantages and broad maneuvering room, the Chinese economy is well prepared to achieve medium-high growth rates and advance to medium-high development levels.

China’s tremendous development in the past would not have been possible without opening-up. China will remain firmly committed to the win-win strategy of opening-up, and the door will open wider. China is committed to cultivating new drivers of growth and promoting transformation and upgrading of its economy. This is a process of self-improvement and also an opportunity for the world as it represents enormous investment opportunities and market potential. It is expected that in the next five years, China’s total imports will reach $8 trillion, total outbound investment will reach $720 billion and the Chinese will make over 600 million outbound visits. All this will bring huge business opportunities to companies of all countries, including Portuguese-speaking countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a Portuguese saying goes, “true friends are forever” (Os amigos verdadeiros sao para sempre). We Chinese also say that as distance tests a horse’s strength, time reveals a person’s heart. Time has shown and will continue to show that China and Portuguese-speaking countries are good friends and close partners who can trust and count on each other. Let’s pool our strengths and wisdom together, ride the waves and steer forward the ship of amity and cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

Thank you.