The government seems to be increasingly counting on the potential of foreign discount chains, such as Lidl, Ikea and Dia, to battle inflation. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and his deputy, Yiannis Papathanassiou, met yesterday with representatives of these three chains, which hold prominent shares in the food retailing and household goods sectors, to address retailing issues. «We discussed how more Greek products can find their way to the shelves of these big chains,» said Sioufas afterward. «We also talked about simplifying procedures for licensing that are to be completed soon, as well as the proper application of the law in commerce and competition,» he added. Sioufas made it clear that the government «does not believe in gentlemen’s agreements to keep down prices,» a practice that had been favored by the previous government. «In a free market, prices are determined by supply and demand.» Competition among the retail chains is already strong, with Lidl and Dia in supermarkets and Ikea in home furnishings having eroded traditional Greek chains’ market shares. Stakes are expected to rise further in 2006, as a number of new foreign chains are scheduled to enter the Greek market, including cut-price German giant Aldi, supermarket chains Tengelmann (Plus) of Germany and Tesco of the UK, either autonomously or by buying out a smaller Greek chain. They will join several other foreign retailers in this country, such as Media Markt and Dixons in electrical goods, Factory Outlet and Inditex in clothing, Douglas in cosmetics and Fnac in books and multimedia.