1. Introduction to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area

The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area – also known as the Greater Bay Area – is a key national strategy whose planning, deployment and implementation are directly handled by President Xi Jinping. In that regard, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce, jointly released in 2015 the document “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. It mentioned – for the first time – the “development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”, framing such endeavour within the national “Belt and Road” Initiative.

In 2017 – in an event witnessed by President Xi – representatives of the National Development and Reform Commission, the Guangdong Provincial People’s Government, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, and the Macao SAR Government, inked the “Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Bay Area”, which sets out the main guidelines regarding the direction for co-operation, and establishes mechanisms related with division of tasks and coordination between the three governments.

In 2018, Premier Li Keqiang proposed in his Government Work Report to “launch the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan, and nurture in all areas mutually beneficial co-operation between the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao.” In August that year, the Leading Group for the Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area was formed, signalling that the development of the Greater Bay Area was in full swing. The “Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” – officially launched in February 2019 – further established the respective development positioning and functions of each city within the Greater Bay Area.

The Greater Bay Area covers the Hong Kong SAR, the Macao SAR. and nine cities in Guangdong Province, namely Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. It is also known as “9+2”.

As of 2018, the Greater Bay Area covered a total area of around 56,000 square kilometres and had a population of more than 71 million people. Its aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded US$1.6 trillion in 2018, and total annual foreign trade reached US$2.2 trillion.

The “9+2” cities and regions are geographically and culturally close, enjoying firm bonds in terms of people-to-people exchanges, and competitive advantages arising from such proximity. Features of the Greater Bay Area include: high infrastructure interconnectivity; a high added-value industrial structure; and an innovation-driven and open economy. Such characteristics – typical of a world-class bay area – are taking shape and becoming increasingly more visible in the Greater Bay Area.

By taking a leading position nationwide in terms of economic output and development quality and potential, the Greater Bay Area is poised to play a strategically pivotal role in the economic growth and opening up of the People’s Republic of China. The Greater Bay Area is expected to become the fourth world-leading bay area in terms of development – following Tokyo Bay, the New York metropolitan area, and the San Francisco Bay Area – eventually positioning itself as an important engine for global economic development.

2. The Role of Macao in the Development of the Greater Bay Area

Macao is one of the four “core cities” as designated by the Outline Development Plan for the Greater Bay Area. The city not only enjoys institutional advantages derived from the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and from its unique position respectively as a “World Centre of Tourism and Leisure” and a “Commercial and Trade Co-operation Service Platform between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries”, it also brings other benefits to the Greater Bay Area. For instance, Macao stands out for its status as a free port and as a separate customs territory from the other cities within the Greater Bay Area, offering a simple taxation- system and an excellent business environment.

In order to enhance Macao’s participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area, the Macao SAR Government set up the “Working Committee for the Construction of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” in November 2018, namely to facilitate development of related systems and mechanisms. This includes strengthening support for technological innovation: building on the establishment in Macao of four State Key Laboratories – namely the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine; the State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI (Very-large-scale integration); the State Key Laboratory of Internet of Things for Smart City; and the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences – Macao is joining hands with other cities in the Greater Bay Area to push ahead together on the establishment of the “Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Macao Sci-Tech Innovation Corridor”. By gathering international resources in the field of innovation, the Greater Bay Area strives to achieve innovation-driven development with focus on enhancing the capacity of transforming technological innovations into commercial application, in order to position itself as an international highland for scientific and technological innovation.

To further align with the national master plan and follow the unified approach to policy deployment taken by the Central People’s Government – as well as fully to make use of Macao’s unique strengths in accordance with the needs of the country – the Macao SAR Government has integrated the development of the Greater Bay Area into the city’s own development planning and policy. “The Macao Special Administrative Region’s Participation in the Construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” – an annexe to Macao’s first ever Five-year Development Plan – clearly states the priorities for the Macao SAR in relation to its participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area.

The Macao SAR Government has always adhered to a two-pronged policy approach of applying its inherent capabilities to the task of strengthening regional co-operation and in order continuously to accelerate the pace of Macao’s moderate economic diversification. This includes, on one hand, actively to give full play to the city’s functions of “precise collaboration”, “precise development” and “precise liaison”. On the other hand, through the “+Macao” strategy, the SAR Government strives to establish and expand three paths for international economic and trade co-operation, namely: reaching Latin America via Brazil; connecting to the European Union through Portugal; and interacting with Africa through Mozambique and Angola. Such an approach effectively advances Macao’s role in national economic development and in promoting the country’s opening-up strategy, namely by actively promoting the establishment of in-depth contacts and exchanges between other cities within the Greater Bay Area and the Portuguese-speaking Countries and other countries covered by the “Belt and Road” Initiative.

Macao, through its role as a co-operation platform and by promoting mutual co-operation and exchange – namely via the “go global” and “bring in” investment strategies – can help in providing access to markets in Portuguese-speaking Countries and in facilitating the development of the “Belt and Road” Initiative and of the Greater Bay Area, providing high-quality services that can stimulate the formation of new patterns of development for the opening up of the Greater Bay Area.

3. Provision of customised services by IPIM for the development of the Greater Bay Area

In order to further cultivate the moderate economic diversification of Macao, and to help optimise the city’s industrial structure, the Macao SAR Government has been strenuously supporting the development of emerging sectors including the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry, traditional Chinese medicine, the cultural and creative industries, and featured finance sector (i.e. a finance sector with Macao features).

The Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) – a Macao SAR Government organ under the portfolio of the Secretariat for Economy and Finance – is responsible for promoting external trade, attracting inward investment, nurturing the development of the MICE sector, and promoting economic and commercial co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries.

IPIM has been pragmatically implementing the Macao SAR Government’s strategy to develop the local MICE sector by giving “priority to conventions”, namely by emphasising the hosting of local branded events such as the Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum & Exhibition (MIECF), the Macao International Trade and Investment Fair (MIF), the Macao Franchise Expo (MFE), and the Guangdong & Macao Branded Products Fair (GMBPF). The Institute also offers support for local MICE businesses to help them grasp opportunities, by providing a “One-stop Service” for MICE Bidding and Support in Macao, as well as various other MICE-related support programmes, and by introducing new, quality, MICE events to Macao such as the International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (IIICF).

In addition, IPIM has also been improving the level of internationalisation, scale, quality, philosophy and strategy of different events, while enriching MICE events taking place in Macao with elements linked to the Greater Bay Area. These efforts include: inviting business entities from different Greater Bay Area cities to take part in Macao-based branded events, setting up information counters and Greater Bay Area-themed pavilions, promoting information about the business environment in the Greater Bay Area, organising relevant networking activities, and helping cities within the Greater Bay Area to build external connections. IPIM constantly serves as a hub between parties from the Greater Bay Area, the Portuguese-speaking Countries, and other countries and regions covered by the “Belt and Road” Initiative, creating new co-operation opportunities.

In line with the development of the Greater Bay Area, IPIM has been enhancing the services offered by its Guangzhou Representative Office, so as to reinforce the IPIM’s links with the cities within the Greater Bay Area. By extending the scope of its “One-stop Service” available at the Guangzhou Representative Office, by deepening and refining its services, and by providing a proximity service to the nine cities in Guangdong Province covered by the Greater Bay Area, IPIM is taking the initiative to push forward economic co-operation and exchanges between the cities within the Greater Bay Area, the Portuguese-speaking Countries, and enterprises from Macao. This helps enterprises from the Greater Bay Area to tap into the markets of the Portuguese-speaking Countries and other international markets, while simultaneously promoting the Greater Bay Area to overseas enterprises and attracting them to the region.

By carrying out business-matching activities and promoting economic and trade co-operation, IPIM makes use of the complementary strengths of all parties involved to achieve mutual benefit and common development. In addition, IPIM’s Guangzhou Representative Office has launched services facilitating Macao enterprises’ commercial registration on the Mainland, streamlined commercial registration procedures in Macao for Mainland enterprises, and supports for Macao young people’s internship, employment or entrepreneurship in the Greater Bay Area.

IPIM works with the Macao Economic Bureau, the city’s Labour Affairs Bureau and the Monetary Authority of Macao in order to provide to investors relevant policy consultation and document-forwarding services.

Looking ahead, IPIM aims to continuously contribute to the development of the Greater Bay Area, by creating an improved business and investment environment for domestic and international enterprises and investors – especially for those from the Greater Bay Area and for local small- and medium-sized enterprises. IPIM aims to achieve this via its range of services, which includes the “One-stop Service” for MICE Bidding and Support in Macao, the Investor’s “One-stop Service”, business promotion services, Lusophone markets promotion services, investment residency application services and business information consultation services.