Chinese and Greek premiers discuss extending ties

Chinese and Greek premiers discuss extending ties

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Monday discussed a series of actions aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation, with Greece making six investment proposals to Beijing.

During talks with Li, which Greek government sources described as “very cordial,” Tsipras promoted Greece’s potential role as a gateway for Chinese products into the European market.

Greek sources indicated that Chinese authorities were considering Greece’s proposals “with interest.”

The concession of a 67 percent stake in Piraeus Port Authority to Chinese shipping giant Cosco is “helping the country stand on its feet,” Tsipras said, adding that Greece was finally turning the page after years of financial uncertainty.

“We are sending a strong message to the international markets that Greece is decisively entering a new phase,” Tsipras told a business forum in the Chinese capital as representatives of Cosco and Greek privatization fund TAIPED officially signed the final agreement for the port deal.

The deal was one of nine agreements signed between the two sides. The other eight agreements were related to bilateral cooperation in tourism, science and technology, investments and cultural programs.

In comments at the business forum on Monday, Li said his country will help Greece become stronger inside a stronger Europe.

The six proposals made by Greece to the Chinese are: Chinese participation in tenders for the Thriasio Freight Center and Crete’s Kasteli airport as well as involvement in shipyard building in Greece; investment in the Greek banking sector, newly bolstered by a second round of recapitalization; expanding on Greek agricultural and food exports to China; the creation of a research and development center in Greece with Chinese help; investment in tourism infrastructure and the creation of direct flights between Athens and Beijing; and bilateral cooperation in the culture and education sectors.

According to Greek government sources, Chinese officials are positively disposed toward the proposals and talks are under way to create a bilateral committee to oversee progress in the above areas.

There was some levity in the talks between Tsipras and Li, with the always tie-less Greek leader quipping that “I didn’t manage to export tie-less dressing to Europe but I did to China,” after observing that the Chinese leader was also dressed casually without a tie. Li responded that China is a large exporting nation but was willing to import goods too “as along as they are quality goods.”

In comments before the National People’s Congress, Tsipras described Greece’s relationship with China as “a bicycle.” “One of the wheels is financial cooperation and the other cooperation is in culture and education,” he told the president of the congress, Zhang Dejiang.

Zhang, for his part, said he was pleased with the fact that Greece completed its bailout review successfully.

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