The government of Macau, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, which was ruled by Portugal from 1557 to 1999 (442 years) and which retains strong ties with the Lusophone world, hopes that joining the Kimberley Process will strengthen its trade relations with Angola.
“There are companies in Angola which have now shown interest in doing business in Macau, following the application to [the Kimberley Process] regime,” said Macau Economic and Financial Secretary Lionel Leong Vai Tac during a plenary session of the territory’s Legislative Assembly. “And they are disposed to and interested in reinforcing the trade relationship.”
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was set up in November 2002 (although the discussions that resulted in its creation started in May 2000) and came into force in 2003. Its function is to prevent rough diamonds being used to fund illegitimate rebel and criminal activities.
Currently, the Kimberley Process has 54 participants, representing 81 countries (the European Union, representing 27 countries, counts as one participant). The global diamond industry’s representative body, the World Diamond Council, and civil society organisations also participate. The process certifies that rough diamonds are “conflict free” and of legitimate provenance. Member countries must have the necessary laws, regulations and agencies, as well as import, export and internal controls to ensure that no trade in conflict diamonds can take place. The members also have to commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data.
The Macau government announced its intention to join the Kimberley Process in March. Its aim is to help diversify the territorial economy by making it possible to trade and process rough diamonds. “The extension of this system to Macau will contribute to the creation of new industries,” he stated. He cited both the import and export sectors and the exhibitions and conventions sector, which would, in future, be able to host jewellery design events. “The implementation of this process will contribute to a supply (literally: manufacturing) chain.”
The Macauhub news agency reported that a number of deputies in the Assembly expressed concern about diamonds being used for money laundering. Leong Vai Tac assured that “those who break the legal requirements will be the target of sanctions (punishments)”. The proposed legislation designates the territory’s Economic Services and Customs Services as the competent authorities to verify the legitimacy of rough diamonds and to create the punitive regime for violations of the law.
The Executive Council has proposed October 1 as the date when the mooted law comes into effect. The principal point of this law will be that ‘economic actors‘ will have to possess ‘operating licences’ for the import, export, transport, trafficking, buying, or selling of rough diamonds in Macau. The import and export of rough diamonds will require certificates issued by the agencies.
As an SAR, Macau has its own system of devolved government, distinct from that in mainland China.