Portuguese toast success by the barrel load

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am

Despite predictions to the contrary, the expatriate Portuguese community is thriving in boom town Macau and as you might expect, a drop of Mediterranean wine is helping oil the wheels.

The twin effects of the liberalisation of the casino market and a deal agreed by Beijing to boost trade with the world's Portuguese-speaking countries by setting up a special forum based in Macau, has boosted Portugal's presence in the city since the handover.

Manuel Antonio Geraldes, Portugal's Trade Commissioner for Macau and Hong Kong, said the years immediately after the 1999 handover were not so rosy for the city as, like Hong Kong, it suffered the impact of the Asian financial crisis and, to a lesser extent, Sars.

However, casino liberalisation and the setting up of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries caused a 'miraculous' turnaround. 'After 2003, [Portugal] have been much more active, both in Macau and China. The Portuguese community, we believe, now numbers between 2000 and 2,200, which is up,' said Mr Geraldes, who is also Deputy Consul-General. 'Our presence at trade fairs in Macau has also grown tremendously over the past few years.'

The main fields in which Portugal is expanding its business in Macau are engineering, architecture and the entertainment industry. The traditionally strong Portuguese legal fraternity remains.

As does it's wine - 63 per cent of wine sold in Macau today is Portuguese, up from pre-handover levels, despite the fact that the 'no tax' benefit pre-1999 has been withdrawn.