China agrees to more Greek deals

Less than 24 hours after Moody’s slashed Greece’s sovereign rating to «junk» status, the government received a boost yesterday when the Chinese vice premier signed 14 investment deals with officials in Athens. Zhang Dejiang, who signed the contracts at a ceremony in Athens where Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos was present, said that Beijing wants to stand by Greece in its moment of crisis. «The government is going to encourage Chinese entrepreneurs to come to Greece to make partnerships and investments,» he said after the ceremony. «We are convinced that the Greek government is capable of overcoming the crisis and returning to stable growth.» One of the agreements signed yesterday was a memorandum of understanding between the two countries in the area of shipping, which foresees favorable chartering rates for Greek vessels. Seven of the contracts were between Chinese shipping giant Cosco and Greek shipowners for the construction of new vessels and the chartering of Greek ships. Cosco has already struck a deal with Greece to manage two container terminals at Piraeus for the next 35 years. The company’s chief executive, Wei Jiafu, said during a visit to Greece last month that Cosco has plans to turn Piraeus into the «greatest container hub in the eastern Mediterranean.» Other agreements signed yesterday included one between Chinese group BCEGI and Greece’s Helios Plaza for the construction of a large hotel complex in Piraeus. Also, OTE telecom reached an agreement with China’s Huawei Technologies, and four Chinese food firms are to begin importing Greek olive oil.