NEWS

PM signs China deal

A strategic agreement signed between Greece and China yesterday is aimed at bringing the two nations closer together – as the Asian giant looks to strengthen ties with a European Union partner while Greek businesses eye one of the world’s biggest economies. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed the agreement in Beijing in what diplomatic sources described as being a friendly environment. «We established that our policies are based on the same foundations but we also found significant room and prospective to broaden and deepen our cooperation,» Karamanlis said. Greece’s diplomatic support of China regarding Taiwan has been mirrored by the Chinese identifying with the Greek stance on Cyprus. Karamanlis, who is accompanied by some of his government’s most senior ministers, is expected to come back from the three-day trip with an array of deals and agreements in his suitcases. «We agreed to support the cooperation between ports and shipping businesses,» he said. The two governments agreed to set up a Greek-Chinese forum that will meet once a year, a deal to export 60,000 tons of Greek fertilizer and to promote Greece as a transport hub for Chinese vessels shipping products to Southeast Europe. Tourism was also high on the agenda, as the local industry is keen to arrange for more direct flights between Athens and Beijing. Trade figures between the two nations have, as one would expect, been in China’s favor. Greece exported $72 million (59.5 million euros) worth of products to China in 2004 and imported from the Asian country $1.7 billion (1.4 billion euros) worth of products and services. In what has become a trip that the government has promoted as being of vital importance, Karamanlis is likely to earn some political points at home from his efforts in China. A survey released on Sunday showed that almost four in 10 Greeks say they would prefer closer ties with the Asian country than with the US, while two-thirds of those surveyed replied that they like the Chinese. Karamanlis is scheduled to also visit Shanghai as the Chinese New Year approaches on January 29, in the Year of the Dog.