Executive Intelligence Review


Portugal Officially Joins the Belt and Road Initiative

Dec. 5, 2018 (EIRNS)—Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva and the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission He Lifeng signed today a “Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative.” The MOU has not been released yet, but it is described as establishing the modalities of the two nations’ cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), on a wide range of sectors, with a particular emphasis on connectivity.

“Portugal welcomes and declares its interest in participating in China’s BRI,” the joint communiqué issued after President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Antonio Costa in Lisbon today stated. The communiqué specifies that in addition to bilateral cooperation in the BRI, both countries reaffirmed their interest in “promoting cooperation with third countries, in regions such as Africa and Latin America,” and that Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa accepted President Xi’s invitation to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in April 2019.

So much for the South China Morning Post story that went around the world this morning, claiming that Portugal had “wavered” on joining the Belt and Road Initiative and did not sign a MOU!

Portugal not only did sign, in the face of European Union and U.S. State Department pressure against joining, but also their communiqué states that both parties agreed to jointly encourage the strengthening of the EU-China Strategic Partnership, and work towards developing “synergies” between the BRI and EU connectivity and investment strategies.

President Rebelo de Sousa told China’s CGTN TV network, in a Nov. 12 interview aired on the eve of President Xi’s arrival, that Portugal could be a gateway to Europe for the BRI, and the BRI could bring more investment into Portugal. He pointedly dismissed the chatter about an “invasion” of Chinese capital into Portugal, telling CGTN that when we look at our country, we see that many key sectors of our economy are in the hands of other Europeans and Americans, including a “very strong, very strong” European hand in Portuguese banking. “I think it is good for Portugal to balance foreign investment” in the country, he said.

In that light, an agreement was signed to implement the previous MOU for Portugal’s public bank, the Caixa Geral de Depositos, and the Bank of China to issue Panda Bonds, renminbi-denominated bonds.

A total of 17 MOUs and protocols were signed today, including a MOU to develop the Portugal-China 2030 Science and Technology Partnership, agreements on scientific and technological exchanges, on blue economy and in space, including the creation of a joint STARLab (Space Technology Advanced Research Laboratory) in Portugal.