The state will make a concerted effort to promote Greek exports in 2006 through the Hellenic External Trade Board (HETB), the revamped state agency for export promotion, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. The main priorities for 2006 include targeting big markets, such as China’s, and a renewed advertising campaign abroad, Alogoskoufis said in presenting the government’s action plan on exports for 2006. Alogoskoufis presented data showing that, during the first 10 months of 2005, exports increased 12.8 percent, compared to the same period last year. The figure prompted Vasso Papandreou, a former minister and current head of the economic policy unit of the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to counter that the increase is mostly due to certain outside factors and that exports of goods actually declined by over 4 percent during the first half of the year. «It is a positive development that the economy and finance minister, almost two years into the government’s term, has decided to occupy himself with the Hellenic External Trade Board’s action plan. It is, however, irresponsible on his part to try and mislead the Greek people on the results of the government’s policy,» she said. Papandreou went on to quote a report by the Center for Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) which says that «the improvement of exports in the first half of 2005 is due mostly to the big increase in shipowners’ revenues from selling ships and, to a lesser extent, to the increase in the value of exported fuel.» Exports of other goods fell 4.2 percent in the first half of 2005, returning to 2003 levels. The HETB will coordinate the actions necessary to promote Greek products abroad, Alogoskoufis said, adding that surveys have been conducted for all major markets targeted. These are the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, Southeast Europe, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, China, South Korea, Japan and Australia. Alogoskoufis presented HETB’s planned activities for 2005, which included participation at 38 major exhibitions abroad (up from 18 in 2004) and help in sending 16 business delegations abroad, when none had traveled in 2003 and 2004. HETB has set as its target tripling the country’s presence at exhibitions and business fora abroad over the next two years. For 2006, it has scheduled participation at 60 exhibitions and sending 31 business delegations abroad. HETB has signed up 4,000 Greek enterprises, many of them first-time exporters, to participate in next year’s activities. A special hotline has been set up to contact HETB and a series of information sessions will take place in Athens and Thessaloniki from January 23-31. Besides the above plans, HETB will also organize business forums in Greece. In February, the second Export Managers Forum is to take place, during which an HETB study of the 500 biggest Greek exporters will be presented. In March, a congress on Greek foods and beverages will be staged. Representatives of big international distribution networks have been invited as well as journalists from six major markets. Activities abroad include about 160 marketing events and roadshows to promote Greek products. Two special campaigns will be conducted to promote Greece’s olive oil, much of which at present is sold in bulk to Italy and Spain where local firms bottle and market it globally. One campaign, budgeted at 6 million euros, will target the US and Canada, while another will target China, where interest has been expressed in starting local olive oil production.