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    Macau and the Central Government reached in Beijing in June 2003 a broad consensus on the principles, mechanisms, contents and negotiating schedule of the future Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between the two sides.

    According to the Macau Government spokesman, the two delegations reached the consensus at the outset of the talks between Mr An Min, Vice-minister of Commerce, and Francis Tam Pak-yuen, Secretary for Economy and Finance of the Macau Government.

    The spokesman said both sides would do "everything possible" to finalise the negotiations and sign an agreement on CEPA by the end of the year so that the arrangement could become effective at the same time as its CEPA counterpart in Hong Kong on January 1 next year.

    "The two sides agreed that the negotiations will be held within the one-country, two systems principle and be based on the norms of the World Trade Organisation," the spokesman said, adding the CEPA would comprise trade, services and investments.

    Macau, which functions as a separate customs territory and a free port, is a founder member of the World Trade Organisation.

    The first meeting between the two sides was held at the Ministry Commerce in Beijing on Friday on June 20. The spokesman stressed that Macau's free-trade arrangement with Beijing would take into account Macau's "concrete trade ties with the Mainland, as well as Hong Kong's CEPA as a reference."

    Speaking to the media in the Chinese capital after the launch of the talks that are scheduled to take several weeks, Mr. Tam said he expected the free-trade arrangement to benefit Macau's sustainable economic development and strengthen its desired role as a business-service platform. Mr. Tam also said that the closer economic partnership arrangement was a strategic response to the ongoing process of economic regionalisation and globalisation.

    Mainland China had a share of some 16 per cent in Macau's total export value last year, when the Mainland generated some 42 per cent of Macau's total export value.

    The Macau Government is keen to promote Macau as an international business-service centre, namely for trade and investment ties between the western part of Guangdong Province and countries overseas, namely the Portuguese-speaking world and the European Union. Unlike Hong Kong, Macau maintains a trade and co-operation agreement with the European Union.

    Earlier this year, Macau and Guangdong Province reached a consensus on the setting-up of a transborder industrial park between Macau and the adjacent Zhuhai Special Economic Zone. The park, which is planned to be operational next year, will be the first of its kind between one of China's two special administrative regions and one of its five special economic zones. Macau Government officials expect the CEPA to provide the future transborder industrial park with additional impetus.


   Edmund Ho Hau Wah, the energetic Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region, has expressed his Government's "unconditional" support to build a super-bridge between the east and west banks of the Pearl River Delta.

    Mr Ho, who holds a degree in business administration, has urged Macau's business community to start "adjusting and adapting" to the post-bridge challenges, namely increased intra-delta competition.

    Whatever its final design and routing, the bridge is seen by economists as a great chance to turn the Pearl River Delta into a super-development zone on a global scale. This will require close co-operation among the estuary's starkly different jurisdiction - Macau, Guangdong and Hong Kong - in a wide range of business-related activities, such as the flow of public and private transport via the bridge and co-ordination in the movement of people, goods and services within the region that comprises some 40 million people.

    The mega-project's social and economic impact on Macau will be tremendous. For the first time in its long history as a Chinese harbour and meeting place between East and West, Macau will have a direct road - and possibly even rail - link with the delta's economic superpower, Hong Kong. Macau's relatively small size and unique Sino-Latin heritage call for special measures by all parts involved to tackle the multifarious challenges expected to follow the opening of the bridge.

    However, notwithstanding all the still unknown variables involved, Macau has warmly welcomed the Central Chinese Government's green light for the construction of the cross-delta bridge, which is planned to be completed by the end of the new millennium's first decade. Mr. Ho has stressed that Macau will fully back the project, irrespective of which city will ultimately benefit most from its completion.

    Macau businesspeople insist that the project should be seen as a genuinely delta-wide structure, and not just as a bridge between Hong Kong and the west bank of the estuary. Consequently, its design should, ideally, include as many access points in the delta as technically feasible.

    Some analysts have pointed out that a double-Y-shaped bridge would have the advantage of not only comprising the delta's two special administrative regions, Macau and Hong Kong, but also its two special economic zones, Zhuhai and Shenzhen, which all combined, function as the delta region's manufacturing, services, logistics and tourism locomotives.

    The bridge project, which promises to be one of the world's greatest engineering challenges at the start of the 21st century, should also be seen as part of Mainland China's closer economic partnership arrangements (CEPA) with both Hong Kong and Macau, which will entail an ever-growing demand for more efficient transport networks within the delta.

    The bridge project is just one facet of Macau's promising development in the coming years, including an innovative trans-border park in conjunction with the adjacent Zhuhai Municipality and a host of large-scale infrastructure and entertainment projects, such as a two-level bridge between the Macau Peninsula and Taipa Island and several mega-casino resorts,convention centres and de luxe hotels.

    Following its smooth return to the Motherland, Macau has, indeed, become an integral part of the transformation of the Pearl River Delta into one of the world's so-called "super zones."

    Following its smooth return to the Chinese Motherland in 1999, Macau is charging ahead to become important player in the New Pearl River Delta Super Zone, based on its centuries-long experience as a hub for trade, business services and cultural ties between China and the rest of the world.


World Trade Center Macau,S.A.R.L.
Av. da Amizade, No.918
World Trade Center Building, 16th Floor, MACAU
Tel : (853) 727666   Fax : (853) 727633

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