NEWS

Chinese Premier arrives in Athens, holds talks with Samaras

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived 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.

The Chinese Premier was welcomed at the Athens International Airport by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The two were scheduled to talk at the government headquarters in Athens before holding a joint press conference.

During the visit, Greek Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and members of the 14-member Chinese delegation are expected to sign three bilateral agreements concerning the financing of Greek-owned small and medium-sized enterprises operating in China by the China Development Bank, maritime protection, and the provision of services by the China Classification Society, a specialized inspection and certification body, to Greek-flagged ships.

In a letter published in Wednesday’s Kathimerini, Li noted 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.

Chinese shipyards are the main beneficiary of a building drive by Greece’s merchant shipping sector, which accounts for seven per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs some 192,000 people.

China, the world’s biggest shipbuilder, currently has 192 orders from Greek shipping companies according to UK-based sector observer Fairplay. [Combined reports]

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