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Francis Tam Pak Yuen tells WTO that Macau is determined to preserve its free-trade traditions and market economy

   Macau is determined to preserve its free-trade traditions and market economy, the Special Administrative Region's top economics official, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, told the World Trade OrganisationÕs Trade Policy Review Session in Geneva on March 19.

   Mr Tam pointed out that Macau's political constitution, the Basic Law, ensured the continuity of Macau's long-standing free-trade traditions and market economy, namely the autonomy of its economic policies, the maintenance of the local pataca currency as legal tender, the absence of any foreign-exchange controls, the free flow of goods and capital, and the continuation of its free-port status. Macau has been a free port since 1845.

   Mr Tam also said that, due to its status as a separate customs territory, the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) had kept "fiscal independence" vis-a-vis the China's Central Government in Beijing.

   Macau reverted from Portuguese to local Chinese administration on December 19, 1999.

   The Government's Secretary for Economy and Finance also said that thanks to the MSAR's "currency peg system" and strong demand from industrialised countries, the performance of Macau's merchandise trade exports had been stable since the Asian financial crisis.

   Mr Tam stressed that Macau's macro-economic environment had been "gaining momentum" since last year. Growth in the gross domestic product was expected to have reached four per cent in 2000 and the unemployment rate had eased from a peak of 7.1 per cent in the middle of last year to 6.4 per cent early this year.

   The Secretary also said that Macau continued to be fully committed to its free-trade obligations under the multilateral trading system of the WTO and its Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

   Macau is a founder member of the WTO. It joined the ITA in 1996.

   Mr Tam emphasised that the MSAR Government was taking steps to further liberalise the local economy, namely in the areas of mobile telephone services, internet service providers, satellite television services and civil aviation.

    "The MSAR is open to exchange fifth freedom rights in addition to third and fourth freedom rights with other countries and regions," Mr Tam said about the Government's new approach towards air transport.

   Mr Tam also said that "Macau will go further to open up its gaming sector this year. Development in this sector is expected to foster the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) business in Macau."

   Mr Tam also said he expected Macau to become a "commercial hub providing business back-up and managerial support to investors in Mainland China," based on its "prevailing regional comparative advantage."

   The MSAR is a full WTO member in its capacity as a separate customs territory of the People's Republic of China. Its membership is officially described as "Macau, China."

Macau's merchandise trade balance generates U.S.$287 million surplus in 2000

   Macau's merchandise trade balance generated a surplus of U.S.$ 287 million last year, incease of 78.4 per cent compared with 1999.

According to the Macau Statistics and Census Bureau, Macau's total export value, comprising domestic and re-exports, amounted to U.S.$ 2.55 billion last year, a 15.9 per cent growth in 1999. The import value totalled U.S.$ 2.26 billion in 2000, a year-on-year increase of 11 per cent.

Macau's export-import ratio amounted to 112.6 per cent last year, as against a ratio of 107.9 per cent in 1999.

Textiles and garments took up 82.5 per cent of Macau's total export value last year.

About three quarters of Macau's exports were taken up by the United States (48.3 per cent) and the 15-nation European Union (28.4 per cent) in 2000.


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