Charles M Choy has a lot on his plate. The Macao-born businessman is co-chairman of the city’s namesake malt-based beverage – Macau Beer – and the managing director of his family’s business, Vaian Group (which both manufactures handbags and sells herbal cough syrups). He’s also a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), and its current chairman. As if that wasn’t enough, Choy sits on the board of the 130-year-old Tung Sin Tong Charitable Society.
Here, Choy sits down with Macao magazine to talk about his role at AmCham and the chambers’ role in Macao’s business scene.
Tell us a bit about your background, and how AmCham got started.
I studied economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1991. Then, I worked for a year in the US before relocating to Bangkok to join my father’s business, Vaian Group. In 1996, I came home to Macao, where Vaian is headquartered.
There weren’t so many foreigners here at that time, but US investors were starting to invest in the city – particularly in gaming. Soon, more business people from the US, Australia and Europe started moving to Macao. Meanwhile, I was meeting them all. Getting an understanding of their needs and ambitions, and how they related to Macao’s future development.
In 2007, myself and 12 others decided to formalise these meetings and found AmCham. We now have about 100 corporate and individual members.
What is AmCham’s role in Macao?
With Macao being the place where East meets West, I think it’s important for locals like myself to understand more about our visiting friends – the people who are helping facilitate development in Macao. AmCham is a good platform for us to get together.
It is a very essential platform for the large mass of US investments in Macao. We provide guidelines on local business practices, and updates on Macao’s rules and regulations. Leaders from these organisations also sit on our board.
What are your main roles and responsibilities as chairman?
I’m in my third tenure as chairman, the last started in 2019. Before Covid, I focused heavily on networking with communities that had potential US-related trade and development opportunities.
Now, we are in the recovery phase. I am trying to reactivate everything. We saw expats leaving during the pandemic and, I think, they’re gradually coming back. AmCham is slowly reheating its networking activities and connections with counterparts.
Basically, the role is about advocating for trade and business exchanges between the US and Macao.
What is AmCham’s biggest challenge nowadays? What are your upcoming projects?
Well, Covid just ended. I think a lot of us in the business world are trying to catch up – so, that’s one challenge.
Personally, I will be making more efforts to enhance communications between US businesses in the US and Hong Kong with businesses in Macao, to create more opportunities for developments and investments here. I think that’s also going to be a challenge.
Soon, we’re going to offer a trip to the GBA [Greater Bay Area] to check out business opportunities there. That will likely include a tour of the Macau Beer brewery in Zhuhai. We also want to visit the Islands District Medical Complex in Cotai. It’s due to open on 20 December. As you know, this is no ordinary hospital. It’s a medical services project that Macao is trying to introduce as a medical tourism venture.
What is the GBA’s significance to AmCham?
I think it’s essential for our American community in Macao – and anyone related to American businesses here – to understand how Hengqin and the entire GBA integrate with Macao. The GBA is key to Macao’s diversification plans over the coming decade. It’s very important for our members to get to know more about the region through visiting it in person.
Where’s AmCham’s focus going to be in the coming decade?
We know the gaming licences have been renewed for another 10 years, so that will be the backbone of AmCham’s focus, I think. Not all our focus, but a lot of it – because these investments are significant. They are the foundation of a lot of jobs, activities and developments in Macao.
AmCham will also be focusing on its internal and external relationships. After 16 years, we are deeply rooted in Macao society. But we always want to improve AmCham as a platform for business exchanges in Macao and the surrounding areas.
How do you manage to juggle all your work responsibilities?
My calendar is my god, and I have my assistants prepare it for me. I do my work with the allocated time slots.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy having dinner or a drink with my friends, preferably involving Macau Beer, of course. When I have the time, I also travel to Japan with my [Japanese] wife to visit my parents-in-law.