Chinese premier to sign deals in landmark visit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is due in Athens on Thursday for a landmark three-day visit during which Greek and Chinese officials are expected to sign several key deals in the trade, energy and shipping sectors.

Li, who is to be accompanied by a 14-member government delegation, noted in a letter published in Wednesday’s Kathimerini his intention to “open up new prospects for a deeper China-Greece relationship” with an enlarged presence at the port of Piraeus among the top priorities. On Friday the two leaders are to visit the facilities of Chinese firm Cosco, which controls the two main container terminals at the port, as Chinese officials seek to underline their interest in acquiring a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, known by its Greek acronym OLP.

Li has also expressed China’s interest in other investment opportunities in Greece, including in the country’s railways, road infrastructure and ports. He and Samaras are due to visit Crete where the former is expected to reiterate interest in the new international airport near the port of Iraklio.

Officials are also likely to seek to broaden bilateral cooperation in the shipping sector. Greek ships already transport around half of China’s crude oil and other imports. Greek shipping firms will seek to build on this in their meetings with Chinese officials. One key deal that is expected to be signed involves the China Development Bank Corporation, which foresees financing for small to medium-sized Greek shipowners who want to order vessels from Chinese shipyards.