Business / Economy

Greek new govt welcomes Chinese investment

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-02-27 14:28

ATHENS -- In another positive sign that Greece's new government welcomes foreign investment, its Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is scheduled to pay a visit to Chinese-run Piraeus Contanier Terminal (PCT) in Piraeus Port on Friday, exactly one month after the new cabinet was sworn in and three days after the reform list of the government was approved by the Eurogroup.

Coming to power with a vow to roll back many of the austerity measures and reforms, including privatizations, that Greece has undertaken according to bailout deals, the new coalition government led by the Radical Left Syriza gradually realized that privatization can help develop the economy and generate revenue for the new government.

Privatization plays a big role in the long list of reform presented to the Eurogroup on Monday. In the document signed by Varoufakis, the government "commit not to roll back privatizations that have been completed. Where the tender process has been launched the government will respect the process, according to the law."

Meanwhile, the government will "review privatizations that have not yet been launched, with a view to improving the terms so as to maximise the state's long term benefits, generate revenues, enhance competition in the local economies, promote national economic recovery, and stimulate long term growth prospects."

The new stand represents a U-turn to the initial remarks made by some ministers to halt the planned sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, which runs Pier I of Piraeus port, Greece's biggest port.

Chinese shipping giant COSCO, which has been running Pier II and Pier III of the port through its subsidiary PCT since 2008, was among the forerunners to bid the stake.

Commercial traffic through the port has increased eight-fold since COSCO's takeover, attracting international giants such as ZTE and Hewlett-Packard to use the cargo terminals as logistics centers for their products. The project of the Piraeus port has become a paradigm of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Greece.

The change of attitude towards privatization was led by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras himself. Attending a reception hosted by the 18th escort fleet of the Chinese navy at Piraeus port on Feb. 19, Tsipras said his government will support COSCO's investment at Piraeus port, as well as Chinese investments in other sectors across Greece.

He expressed confidence that Piraeus port, as a key gateway for the delivery of Chinese products to Europe, can become a leading trade hub on a European and international level.

Tsipras added that there was great potential for bilateral cooperation in transports, railways, as well as in the tourism and culture fields.

Further advancing the friendly ties and win-win cooperation between the two countries was stressed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Tsipras in a telephone conversation on Feb. 12.

Li said China treasures bilateral friendship and continues to expand pragmatic cooperation with Greece, adding that China is willing to work with the Greek side to develop the Piraeus port into a first-class one in the Mediterranean and an important regional hub, which could play a key role in constructing a land-sea express passage linking China and Europe and boosting the Asia-Europe interconnectivity.

The Piraeus port project, a success of China-Greece cooperation,

has boosted not only local employment, workers' rights and interests, but also the conservation and improvement of their working conditions, Li stressed, hoping that both sides keep own promises.

For his part, Tsipras said the Greek government also prioritizes relations with China and welcomes China to invest more in Greece.

Pledging not to change the nature of existing cooperation projects with China, Tsipras said Greece is confident that, together with China, the two countries' friendly and cooperative ties will be further advanced.

Tsipras said that Greece, in a vital phase of reviving and developing national economy, needs China's support and help.

The Piraeus project with the Chinese shipping giant COSCO is crucial for Greece's economic development, Tsipras said. As a pilot project for Greece-China cooperation, Athens will attach more significance and provide more support for it, promised Tsipras.

China is an important power backing Europe's stability and development, said the Greek prime minister. Tsipras said Greece values the construction of the Europe-China land-sea express passage, and is willing to serve as a bridge for Europe-China interactions and enhance constant progress of the European-Chinese partnership.

Analysts said it is a usual phenomenon for Greek politicians to land into reality after winning an election. With a win-win prospect and the promise having been made to international lenders and foreign investors, the new Greek government has little room to reverse the direction of privatization, they predicted.

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