NEWS

Stournaras eyes loans at Eurogroup as Samaras prepares for China

As Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras prepares to meet with his eurozone counterparts again in Brussels on Monday for the anticipated approval of further rescue funding, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is busy preparing for a much-awaited visit to China where he hopes to prospect for investments and promote Greece as a “bridge” to Western Europe for the booming Asian economy.

Athens is hopeful that Monday’s Eurogroup summit will give the green light for the release of a 4.2-billion-euro loan tranche. Stournaras and his team have been scrambling to sign off all the ministerial decisions and circulars that implement the provisions of a multi-bill voted through Parliament last month though there are still fears that objections might be raised in Brussels that some of the agreed-to measures are not being enforced.

In view of this uncertainty, it remains unclear whether Stournaras will press his eurozone peers to approve another 3.3-billion-euro installment of aid slated for the second quarter of 2013, as he had suggested he would last week.

Greece’s delegation to China appears to be traveling with fewer concerns. Samaras is flying to Beijing on Wednesday flanked by around 60 Greek entrepreneurs from several sectors including shipping, tourism, banking and new technologies, as well as officials of the state privatization fund, TAIPED. The premier harbors high hopes for his five-day visit to China, which will include talks with Chinese government officials and entrepreneurs, Kathimerini understands. The fact that Samaras is the second European leader, after French President Francois Hollande, to be invited to Beijing by the country’s new political leadership, is being interpreted as a promising sign for Greece and its hopes to boost trade ties with China. The Chinese have reportedly expressed particular interest in the tourism sector with Chinese travel agencies said to be keen to offer more Greek packages. There is also said to be strong Chinese interest in Greek regional ports and airports following the successful investment by shipping firm Cosco in the cargo terminals of Piraeus.

The strengthening of business ties between Greece and China come amid reports that several American and European investors – businesses and hedge funds – are planning strategic moves in the Greek market.

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