The Macau handover has advanced relatively smoothly with nothing of the angst that marred Sino-British relations over Hong Kong souring ties between Beijing and Lisbon. But with five days before the reunification, there is lingering uncertainty in the enclave about life afterwards. The Portuguese Government is as uneasy as the Clinton administration because the US Congress has not yet passed the Macau Policy Act. Both see the law as an important legal and political symbol supporting Macau's continued independence as a Special Administrative Region of China. But equally predictably, Chinese officials are repeating the mantra that accompanied the passing of the Hong Kong Policy Act in 1992. They stress that they will brook no interference in China's domestic affairs. Macau is not the major international city that Hong Kong is. Nor does the US have the historical, commercial or diplomatic interests that it has here, where Washington was concerned to see that the pledges in the Sino-British Joint Declaration promising gradual democratisation and protection for human rights were implemented. However, the US does have trade pacts, aviation agreements, law enforcement and customs links with Macau. The people of Macau would have been reassured if the US had a law applying to their SAR, not least because it would ensure continuance of its textile exports to the country. As the biggest export earner after the gambling industry, the US$1 billion textile trade is crucial to Macau's economic success, which will play a part in bolstering the enclave's freedoms and way of life. If the Macau Policy Act had been passed before the Christmas recess, it would have allowed US law enforcers and customs officials to continue direct links with the enclave and safeguard a variety of arrangements important to its continued prosperity. There will now be an unfortunate hiatus. When Congress reconvenes to consider the matter, it would be a mistake for members to slant the act too heavily on political issues. China has not intervened directly in Hong Kong's internal affairs. There is reason to suppose it will pursue the same policy with Macau. A non-confrontational approach is the best way to support Macau as it moves into a new era. Increased prosperity is the best guarantee of its freedoms.