Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ five-day trip to China is quickly paying dividends with burgeoning deals and closer relations and he used it to urge the Chinese to use Greece as an entry to invest throughout Europe.
While foreign investors often complain about typical rounds of endless bureaucracy-and-bribes and many have given up on the Greece, Samaras said from now on that they would be given the “red carpet treatment” to lure their business.
Speaking in Beijing, he said Greece is “anchored to the euro zone,” and believes in a “new era” of cooperation. Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping said China will expand investment in the port of Piraeus and invest in infrastructure in the European Union.
“Greece is determined to turn the crisis into an opportunity for a new start,” Samaras said at a business forum. “Combining Greece’s advantages and China’s penetration in global trade as well as its competitive production costs, we can build a strong partnership.”
Ironically, he had initially opposed the reforms and austerity measures he’s imposing in Greece on the orders of international lenders and which he now says are the reason why the country’s beleaguered economy is beginning to turn around.
Samaras is leading a delegation of more than 60 entrepreneurs on the visit as Greece plans a return to the bond market and seeks new investment. Fitch Ratings on May 14 raised the country’s debt rating by one grade, to B- from CCC, citing the government’s progress in rebalancing the economy and bringing its deficits under control.
Meeting with Samaras on May 16, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for doubling bilateral trade by 2015 and expanding investment in Piraeus, after Cosco Pacific won a contract to run container operations at its Pier II in 2009. Joining Samaras were representatives from Greek companies including Alpha Bank, Gaea Products and Dynagas Ltd.
“Greece is a developed country but possesses the potential of an emerging one,” Stephanos Issaias, Chief Executive of Invest in Greece, said at the event. Samaras spoke three days after Fitch upgraded Greece and gave it a stable outlook, saying that “clear progress” had been made toward eliminating its fiscal and current-account deficits. The country’s Economic Adjustment Program is “on track,” Fitch said.
Greece has been shut out of bond markets since March 2010 and Samaras said earlier this week that selling bonds next year will sound the “all clear” to foreign investors. He said political and social stability have been assured and that Greece’s fate is tied to the euro area.
Jiang said China sees the EU as the “major instrument” for diversifying its foreign-exchange reserves and called on the bloc to expand high-tech exports to the country. He said China will expand investment in Piraeus while encouraging more tourists to travel to Greece.
“China firmly supports the EU’s financial stability measures and has backed its words with assistance to the best of its ability to help EU states weather the crisis,” Jiang said.