SINGAPORE (Nov 4): Macau is being pulled into dangerous crossfire. China has suggested the world’s largest gambling centre as a venue for US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sign an interim trade deal, Reuters reports. It is an invitation that sends two messages at once.

Sprawling resorts mean the tiny territory has the capacity to host this kind of circus. That makes it a credible substitute for Chile’s capital, after Santiago cancelled a planned November summit amid mass demonstrations. But the proposal, unofficial as it is, does more than offer a quick diplomatic fix. Picking Macau would be a useful way for Beijing to shower favour on a pliant territory, while snubbing its restive neighbour, Hong Kong. The former British colony has seen four months of often-violent anti-government protests.

As importantly, it would be an unsubtle reminder to casino owners of what is at risk if a larger deal is not reached. Three of Macau’s six licensed casino operators are owned by US parents, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International. With negotiations for new licences scheduled for 2022, there are billions of dollars at stake. The Beijing-backed local government might offer less favourable terms. Worse, there is an outside chance they could bring in homegrown players to replace the incumbents.

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