Greek and Chinese officials on Thursday signed more than a dozen bilateral investment and trade agreements as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang launched a three-day visit to Greece by pledging to be “a long-term, responsible investor” in the country.
Li, who was accompanied on his visit by a large delegation of government officials and entrepreneurs, reaffirmed Beijing’s interest in investing in several sectors of the Greek economy, chiefly infrastructure, transport and energy.
However, in an unexpected move, he also expressed Chinese interest in Greek sovereign debt.
Greece’s return to international bond markets in April showed that “the Greek people have the wisdom and ability to emerge from the crisis,” Li told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. When the Greek government next issues bonds, he said, “China will continue to be a long-term, responsible investor.”
Li added that a continued cooperation between Greece and China was “mutually beneficial” while Samaras described it as “strategic.”
Chinese and Greek officials and entrepreneurs are signing a total of 19 deals worth an estimated 6.5 billion dollars, according to Chinese diplomats.
Among the key agreements signed on Thursday was one for boosting trade and investment cooperation, signed by Development Minister Nikos Dendias and his Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng, as well as a deal for Chinese bank loans to go toward the construction of Greek ships at Chinese shipyards.
There were also deals aimed at boosting Greek exports of olive oil, wine and marble among other products, and for the construction of solar energy parks in Greece.
Three agreements co-signed by Merchant Marine Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis foresee closer cooperation in the maritime transport sector in which the Chinese already have a strong foothold.
Samaras and Li are to go to Piraeus on Friday morning in a symbolic visit aimed at underlining China’s interest in expanding its presence at the country’s main port. Already the Chinese shipping giant Cosco operates two cargo terminals there and it is interested in the acquisition of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, one of several state-controlled assets Greece has pledged to privatize.
Samaras emphasized the potential benefits of a closer bilateral cooperation in trade and logistics.
“Greece can become China’s gateway to Europe, and the start of a European trade corridor between Europe and the Far East,” he told Thursday’s press conference.
According to sources, the exchanges between Greek and Chinese government officials behind closed doors were more than cordial, with Li reportedly describing Greece as “China’s most stable and faithful friend in Europe.”