The Atlantic two-island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe has formally joined the Forum for Trade and Economic Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries, the secretary-general of the permanent secretariat of the forum, Xu Yingzhen, told reporters on Monday.
Xu made the announcement on the sidelines of meeting of the now nine member states of the forum.
In December, São Tomé and Príncipe severed its “diplomatic” ties with Taipei and officially recognised Beijing as the sole representative of China.
The official flag of São Tome and Principe has already joined the world’s other seven Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Portugal) on the official website of the forum, apart from the flag of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The forum is an initiative of the central government and overseen by the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing. It holds a ministerial-level meeting every three years in Macau. Li Keqiang attended the meeting during an inspection visit to Macau in October.
São Tomé and Príncipe, which gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, has nearly 200,000 inhabitants and covers a land area of 964 square kilometres (a bit smaller than the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) in the Gulf of Guinea. The micro-state is the smallest Portuguese-speaking country. Its main crop is cocoa, representing about 95 percent of agricultural exports. Petroleum exploration is still in the embryonic stage.
According to government-owned broadcaster TDM, São Tomé and Príncipe was represented at Monday’s meeting by Djazalde Pires dos Santos Aguiar in his capacity as a specially invited guest. TDM said that Aguiar declined to speak to the media. According to his LinkedIn account, Aguiar is a diplomat of his country’s Foreign Affairs, Co-operation and Overseas Communities Ministry.
Meanwhile, Xu also announced that the forum’s US$1 billion cooperation fund will be moved from Beijing to Macau by the end of the first half of the year. Xu pointed out that the fund is managed by the state-owned China Development Bank.