Message from the Ambassador
An Ambassador of Portugal in China...
An Ambassador of Portugal in China can not but start by mentioning the long relationship with this land and its people that dates back to 500 years ago. Much of our attention when we have to deal with historical events linked to the Portuguese in China tends to be focused on Macau, but we should not forget other places where our presence was recorded, among which is Beijing.
Of all the brave Portuguese that first visited this faraway region, half a millennium ago, let me talk to you about one of them, a soldier and a merchant that became one of the 'fathers' of travel writing: Fernão Mendes Pinto. In his book 'Pilgrimage', where he wrote the memoirs of his journeys in Asia from 1537 to 1558, several references are made to China. His book was translated into the major European languages and sold, at that time, more copies than another famous selling book, involving a knight and his squire. It was a true 17th century 'best seller' perhaps because, as is the case nowadays, a work 'based on a true story' sells more than pure fiction, and next year we are going to celebrate the fourth centenary of its publication (in 1614). Mendes Pinto was the first European writer to mention many of these places where Southeast Asia traded with the North and Northeast Asia. He made a pioneering contribution to our understanding that the maritime trade along these coasts was part of a global phenomenon.
This solid historical and cultural foundation of our two countries’ relationship is something we should always remember, but it should not, in any case, distract us away from the main mission here at the Embassy, of dealing with the contacts between the two peoples, the two civil societies, the two governments and their leaders, and with people connected to business and to ‘concrete life’, including in the spheres of economic activity, investment, trade, scientific and technological cooperation and cultural creation.
Portugal has a strategic location, which in itself is an advantage for business. He is the closest European country to the USA and stands at three time zones both from Brazil and Russia. Has excellent logistics platforms and infrastructures for communication. We have products and services of high quality and at very competitive prices, as well as a highly skilled and talented labor (especially due to the quality of our higher education, which includes partnerships with world-renowned institutions in the USA). A remarkable aptitude for innovation has also been noted.
Some may think that by being a country with only 10 million inhabitants, it constitutes, perhaps, a market too small to deserve the attention of some of you, but, in fact, thinking with a more open mind and a broader vision, you may remember that Portugal is at center of the European Union and simultaneously a gateway to Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries such as Angola and Mozambique (The Iberian Peninsula has 51 million inhabitants, Europe has 494 million and the Portuguese-speaking countries have 220 million).
For those who do not know, our main exports consist of machinery and tools, vehicles and other transport equipment, base metals, oil based products, plastics and rubber, clothing, paper paste and paper. Our predominant commercial sectors with great potential for growth and development are the agro-food industry, biotechnology, renewable energy, industrial equipment, 'lifestyle' products (textiles, household items, furniture, glass, ceramics and cutlery) and fashion, wine, paper paste and paper, aeronautics, automotive sector, plastic molding industry, ICT and cork.
We have a well developed tourism industry, able to offer a very diverse range of services. The most important effort that lies ahead is to convince our Chinese friends that, given all the good things that we have in Portugal, they should try to pay a visit to our country at least once. It is widely held that after that first visit subsequent journeys almost always end up taking place. The food and the landscapes are extremely diverse - and enjoyable - for a country with less than 100 000 square kilometers. Golf is just fantastic. And above all, we are hospitable to all people that visit us from anywhere in the world.
In recent years there has been an impressive development of our economic relations, including a very significant participation of Chinese companies, as important as 'China Three Gorges' or 'China State Grid', in the privatization process that is underway in Portugal, translating into concrete numbers the excellent political relationship between the two countries, noticed by a remarkable dynamic of reciprocal high level visits, and by a 'strategic partnership' established in 2005 that defines our bilateral relationship.
That is why, focusing on the current challenges and anchored on the solid base of our common memory, Portugal and China have in front of them the continuation of an harmonious relationship and an highly auspicious future.
Ambassador Jorge Torres-Pereira