Athens (AFP) June 15, 2010
China pledged to encourage investment in debt-stricken Greece as the Asian economic powerhouse Tuesday signed a maritime accord with Athens and Chinese businesses sealed 13 deals with Greek companies.
"The government is going to encourage Chinese entrepreneurs to come to Greece to make partnerships and investments," said Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Dejiang during a signing ceremony in the Greek capital.
After meeting with his Greek counterpart Theodore Pangolas, Zhang expressed the desire of the two countries to strengthen relations and work together to deal with the affects of the global financial crisis, which had brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.
"We are convinced that the Greek government is capable of overcoming the crisis and return to stable growth," said Zhang, who headed a delegation of Chinese business leaders for the past five days in Greece.
The two countries signed a cooperation accord in the maritime sector and announced 13 contracts between Greek and Chinese companies worth several hundred million euros, according a Greek source.
Seven contracts were between the Chinese commercial giant Cosco and Greek shipowners for an order of seven freighters, the chartering of six cargo ships and the creation of a joint venture.
Another contract involved the Chinese group BCEGI and Greece's Helios Plaza for the construction of a huge hotel centre at the main Greek port of Piraeus.
The Greek telecom group OTE also reached a cooperation agreement with China's Huawei Technologies, and four Chinese food companies are to import Greek olive oil.
The Financial Times reported Tuesday that China was eyeing shipping, logistics and airport projects in Greece, and that the shipping agreements alone were reportedly worth 500 million euros (615 million dollars).
The newspaper pointed to Cosco's keen interest in Greece's abundant port facilities, the quality of its world-leading merchant fleet and its strategic location as a gateway into the Balkans and Europe.
The Chinese company last year signed with Greece a 35-year concession to expand the two main container terminals at Piraeus for a guaranteed premium of 3.4 billion euros.
"Cosco has a major plan to build the port of Piraeus into the greatest container hub in the eastern Mediterranean area, and we will create a logistics centre in Piraeus," Cosco chief executive Wei Jiafu told reporters last month.
Athens has been seeking to attract investment from countries with massive sovereign wealth funds -- such as China -- in an effort to stimulate economic growth in its debt-laden economy.
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have given Greece a 110-billion-euro bailout package over three years to tackle the fiscal crisis, which has shaken investor confidence in the eurozone.
Moody's ratings agency on Monday slashed its sovereign rating for Greece to "junk" status, a move rejected by Athens, which said it had taken significant steps to balance its books.
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