Por­tu­gal may sign MOU with China

Global Times US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Zhang Hui

As Por­tu­gal re­ceives the first state visit from a Chi­nese head of state in eight years, Chi­nese an­a­lysts pre­dicted that the Euro­pean coun­try is highly likely to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing (MOU) on the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive (BRI) with China to boost ties and ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ar­rived in Lis­bon, cap­i­tal of Por­tu­gal, on Tues­day for a two-day visit.

It is Xi’s first visit to Por­tu­gal since he took of­fice as Chi­nese pres­i­dent, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported on Mon­day.

The day be­fore Xi ar­rived, a signed ar­ti­cle by Xi head­lined “A Friend­ship across Time and Space, A Part­ner­ship for the Fu­ture” was pub­lished in Por­tuguese news­pa­per Diario de Noti­cias. In the ar­ti­cle, Xi wrote that as Por­tu­gal lies at an im­por­tant in­ter­sec­tion of the land and mar­itime

silk roads, China and Por­tu­gal are nat­u­rally po­si­tioned to co­op­er­ate un­der the BRI, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua.

Chi­nese an­a­lysts said on Tues­day that Por­tuguese busi­ness­peo­ple and politi­cians have ex­pressed their will­ing­ness for their coun­try to join the China-pro­posed BRI, and Xi’s visit is fully ex­pected to make that hap­pen with the sign­ing of an MOU.

State Coun­cilor and For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi also said in May that the Chi­nese side is will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate and sign an MOU on the BRI with Por­tu­gal as soon as pos­si­ble dur­ing a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Marcelo Re­belo de Sousa of Por­tu­gal, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of China’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs.

Zhang Bei, an associate re­search fel­low at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, told the Global Times on Tues­day that the BRI, as win­win co­op­er­a­tion for both coun­tries, was needed for Por­tu­gal, which lacks eco­nomic struc­tural di­ver­sity.

“The pos­si­ble sign­ing of an MOU with Por­tu­gal would have sig­nif­i­cant mean­ing for the pro­mo­tion of the BRI in South Europe, which would be an ex­am­ple for more Euro­pean coun­tries to join BRI,” Zhang said.

It’s not an easy de­ci­sion for Por­tu­gal to sign the MOU on the BRI as the coun­try will face huge pres­sure from the Euro­pean Union, said Wang Yi­wei, a se­nior fel­low with the Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China in Bei­jing.

Por­tu­gal has re­al­ized that co­op­er­a­tion with China is cru­cial for the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment, Wang told the Global Times on Tues­day.

In Au­gust, EU mem­ber Greece be­come the first de­vel­oped coun­try to sign an MOU on join­ing the China-pro­posed ini­tia­tive, af­ter the EU crit­i­cized the coun­try for its trade re­la­tions with China and blasted the ini­tia­tive as Bei­jing’s move to pur­sue “do­mes­tic political goals,” in­ter­na­tional news site wionews.com re­ported on Au­gust 28.

BRI co­op­er­a­tion

Por­tu­gal’s ad­vanced ship­ping, port trade and in­fra­struc­ture will be high­lighted in its BRI co­op­er­a­tion with China, Zhang said.

China is likely to invest in the Port of Sines in Por­tu­gal, with strate­gic im­por­tance at­tached to a Europe-China land-sea ex­press line that may ex­tend to even Africa and South Amer­ica, Wang said.

In ex­plain­ing Por­tu­gal’s role in the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive, Vir­ginia Trigo, a professor emer­i­tus at the Univer­sity of Lis­bon, said that Por­tu­gal has well-equipped deep-wa­ter ports close to air­port and rail­way fa­cil­i­ties that al­low prod­ucts to be trans­ported throughout Europe, Xin­hua re­ported on Mon­day.

China and Por­tu­gal estab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions in 1979. In 2005, they el­e­vated their ties to a com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship. Bi­lat­eral trade in 2017 was worth $5.58 bil­lion, Xin­hua re­ported.

Many Chi­nese com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Huawei Tech­nolo­gies, ZTE Corp and Fo­sun in­vested in Por­tu­gal years ago, and Por­tu­gal is one of the found­ing mem­bers of the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank, Chi­nese an­a­lysts said.

Wang said that a large amount of Chi­nese in­vest­ment that poured into Por­tu­gal has helped it walk out of the Euro­pean debt cri­sis.

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