Chinese-Greek deals

Prime Minister Costas Simitis began his official visit to China yesterday with meetings with the country’s president and prime minister, the signing of two agreements and promises of wide-ranging cooperation. «My first day of contacts was especially fruitful,» Simitis told Greek reporters after his meetings with President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongii. «We have every reason to have good contacts, a human relationship with the leadership of China and to have an open and frank dialogue. We can exchange opinions on everything. This was done and that’s why I think today was an especially positive day,» he said. «In our talks, we ascertained that relations between the two countries are especially good and we should continue on this course.» Simitis said that the two countries had signed an agreement on preventing double taxation and another under which Greece will provide know-how in fighting forest fires. «Unfortunately, we have gained quite a lot of expertise in this,» Simitis said. On the taxation agreement, he said: «This issue is very important, because as you know, it is difficult to sign such agreements because there are always maritime issues that need special care. This agreement is a great success, because it both serves Greek companies here and whatever activities China develops in Greece.» Simitis said that he had promised Greece would provide help in investigating whether China was suitable for growing olives and would help export olive oil. «Some believe that we should keep this a closely guarded secret,» he said of the major Greek crop. «I believe we should help others to develop. And so we will help with our expertise in this field,» he said. Another subject of major interest was that of Greece’s preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympics, seeing as Beijing will host the 2008 Games. «As time passes, Olympic preparations will be more intensive and will bind the two countries even more closely together,» Simitis said. Archaeologists of the two states will also cooperate in excavations and restoration. Simitis noted that an EU-China agreement on tourism had stumbled over Beijing’s refusal to sign a clause on the forcible return of tourists who did not return home. «The prime minister told me that he does not see this as an obstacle that cannot be overcome,» Simitis said.