Greece signs commercial agreements with China

Greece signs commercial agreements with China

Athens: Greek and Chinese companies signed 14 commercial deals, including for the construction of cargo ships and the export of olive oil, during a visit by Chinese vice-premier Zhang Dejiang, officials said Tuesday.

Debt-plagued Greece has been seeking to boost investments from China, and Chinese shipping and transport giant Cosco Group has said it is looking to expand its Greek operations. The company already operates two container terminals at Greece’s largest port of Piraeus, on a 35-year concession worth $1 billion that was finalized last year.

The agreements signed Tuesday include three between shipping companies and Cosco for the construction of seven dry bulk cargo ships, with options for four more, and the chartering of another five.

Telecoms company OTE also signed an agreement with China’s Huawei Technologies, while food companies signed four agreements for the export of Greek olive oil to China. No figures were immediately available as to how much the deals were worth.

China’s transport minister Li Shenglin and Greece’s development minister, Louka Katseli, also signed a cooperation agreement for the shipping sector.

Shipping is one of Greece’s main industries, with Greeks controlling nearly 20 % of the world’s merchant fleet.

Zhang, who arrived in Athens Monday on a four-day visit, met with Greek deputy prime minister Theodore Pangalos and prime minister George Papandreou.

While the global economy is gradually recovering, “the serious effect of the international financial crisis remains," Zhang said after his meeting with Pangalos, adding that the Chinese government would encourage companies in his country to seek investment opportunities in Greece.

Papandreou, for his part, said relations between the two countries were “excellent" on both a commercial and a political level.

Zhang is to fly to the island of Crete on Wednesday for a one-night stay, before heading to Vienna on Thursday morning.