By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang launched a three day official visit to Athens on Thurasday where he was greeted by Greek PM Antonis Samaras at the Athens International Airport.
Li is accompanied by a large delegation of government officials and businessmen as Greece and China signed bilateral agreements concerning many sectors of the economy such as shipping, energy and trade. The two countries signed over a dozen trade and investment deals worth some EUR 3.4 billion.
One of the agreements refers to the strengthening of cooperation with China’s Development Bank which will offer financial assistance to small and medium sized enterprises.
“The Greek people have the wisdom and ability to emerge from the crisis,” Li told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. When the Greek government next issues bonds, he said, “China will continue to be a long-term, responsible investor.”
The revelation is seen as a vote of confidence for the Greek recovery effort. More investors are now putting their trust in Greece’s government bond market as record-low yields across Europe have made Greek bonds attractive.
Greece returned to international markets after four years in April, selling EUR 3 billion of five-year securities. Greek bonds returned 30 percent this year through June 16, according to Bloomberg World Bond Indexes.
Samaras expressed his appreciation for China’s support during the most difficult years of the crisis, which Greece is now exiting.
Furthermore, Samaras mentioned the potential benefits of a closer bilateral cooperation with China in trade and logistics. “Greece can become China’s gateway to Europe, and the start of a European trade corridor between Europe and the Far East,” he said. “We will examine the expansion of COSCO’s investment in Piraeus, Samaras added.
On Friday the Chinese premier and Antonis Samaras will visit the Piraeus Containers Terminal (COSCO’s subsidiary) at Neo Ikonio. China wants to acquire a 67-percent stake in the Piraeus port authority which is being sold by the Hellenic Asset Development Fund. COSCO is a firm favorite to win the deal as it already has a 35-year concession to expand the two main container terminals at the port of Piraeus.