The Fourth Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries began here Monday. Inaugurated in 2003, the forum aims at strengthening economic relations and cooperation between China and the Portuguese- speaking countries to demonstrate Macao's importance as a platform between them and to promote the mutual benefits and development of each. The forum is a non-political international economic cooperation, organized for the purpose of economic cooperation and development. It consists of a membership of Portuguese-speaking countries including Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Timor-Leste, Mozambique, Portugal and China. The forum is held once every three years, with the chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region Government of China and China's Minister of Commerce being the chairmen of the organizing committee. Thanks to her unique historical and cultural background and strong links with Portuguese speaking countries, Macao, being a free port and independent tariff region, has many merits like a sound legal and financial system, robust economic development and low operational costs. This serves as a convenient platform for the trade flow between the Chinese Mainland and Portuguese speaking countries. With the deepening of China's economic reform, increasingly participating in global economic cooperation has become the direction of China's future economic development. The Portuguese speaking countries, which spread around in five continents, with overall consumer markets of 0.2 billion people and advantageous geographical location in their respective area, have great potentials to cooperate with China, due to their respective comparative advantages. From January to September 2013, the amount of bilateral trade between China and Portuguese speaking countries reached 98.5 billion US dollars, up 0.39 percent comparing the same period of last year.