Zhao Bentang was speaking at the opening of the 3rd International Portugal-China Cooperation Conference, which is being held until Wednesday in person and virtually from the headquarters of the Union of Portuguese-language Capital Cities (UCCLA) in Lisbon, to talk about economic, social, scientific and technological cooperation.
At the initiative promoted by the Union of Portugal-China Cooperation and Friendship Associations and the China Observatory, which will be attended by the Portuguese minister of maritime affairs, Ricardo Serrão Santos, and the secretary of state for internationalisation, Eurico Brilhante Dias, the Chinese ambassador in Lisbon emphasised the fact that Portugal is an endogenous partner of Beijing.
“With the strengthening of the Silk Road as an important point, whether by land or sea, Portugal is an endogenous partner in this construction. Hundreds of years ago, the brave Portuguese sailed along the maritime Silk Road to the East, opening the door to maritime trade. In recent years, Portugal has been actively participating in the construction of this new economic phase, continuing this wonderful chapter in the conversion of relations,” Bentang said.
The Chinese diplomat pointed out that Portugal was one of the 57 founding countries of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (BAII) and one of the first European states to sign cooperation documents on infrastructure construction with China, which has brought multilateral benefits and benefits with third countries.
“China is Portugal’s largest trading partner in Asia, as well as the largest destination for Portuguese pork exports. In the first nine months of this year, trade volume increased and reached $6.38 billion [€5.66 billion], a higher figure than in the whole of 2019. China’s direct investment in Portugal this year increased by 47.76%,” he said.
“In recent years, Chinese-Portuguese relations have shown a good trend and, through high-level dialogue, cooperation has been very intense, with promising results and close cooperation at the multilateral level,” he added, highlighting the creation, in less than six months, of a new strategic partnership.
Bentang also noted that on 27 August, China’s President, Xi Jinping, held a telephone conversation with Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, agreeing to a stable and sustainable strengthening of bilateral cooperation.
“Over the past eight years, since the launch of the new [Silk] Road initiative, the growth of cooperation in Portugal has brought many economic and bilateral benefits, as well as results in third markets,” he said.
In this regard, Bentang pointed out that both Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, have on several occasions expressed the desire to strengthen cooperation with China in the context of the Silk Road and to create greater synergies and effectiveness in development strategies.
“The Chinese side attaches great importance to Portugal’s outstanding role in the construction and development of the [Silk] Road and is willing to work together with the Portuguese side to promote bilateral programmatic cooperation in all areas to reach new heights,” he said.
In the area of the oceans, Bentang noted the existing cooperation through protocols for the defence and promotion of the sea, preservation of biodiversity, the fight against maritime pollution or even maritime expeditions signed between Chinese and Portuguese universities and institutions for the development of the blue economy.
“The sea promotes development, and China and Portugal are actively developing the blue partnership with the desire that the oceans will benefit future generations,” Bentang said.
The conference will feature three roundtable discussions on topics such as “A New Era of Environmental Crisis and Energy Transition”, “The Future of Europe in Light of the Civilisational and Environmental Crisis and the Chinese Concept of a New Era”, and “Political, Economic, Financial, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Cooperation”.