Greek FM holds talks on trade, shipping in China
The signature of a memorandum of understanding between the Greek foreign ministry and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and a chance to highlight potential cooperation in shipping were among the principal results achieved by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis during her visit to China on Friday.
The agreement with the CCPIT – the first signed with a foreign state – calls for the foundation of a business cooperation network between trade attache bureaus and Chinese businessmen in 11 Chinese provinces, for the exchange of information on business contacts, international exhibitions and investments.
In an earlier meeting with Chinese government officials, Bakoyannis also raised demands made by Greek shipping firms that have ordered ships in China, receiving assurances that a meeting between Greek shipping companies and shipyard representatives would soon be arranged to settle the outstanding problems. As regards shipping, Bakoyannis mentioned that at the moment the building of 187 Greek or Greek-owned ships in China is pending and that the Greek merchant fleet carries more than 50 percent of energy taken to and from China and 50 percent of dry cargo products.
The minister also emphasised the potential for Greek-Chinese cooperation in shipping and port services, Greece’s role as a gateway for the surrounding region and stressed the need for mutual certification of products in order to revive trade, while calling for simplification of procedures for the import of Greek agricultural products. Euripides Stylianidis the FM Under-Secretary said that the Chinese “in return” are keeping their promise to use the Greek port system, since in the past year we have more visits by large ships. According to the latest assessments, about 10 Chinese ships with over 5,000 containers visit Greek ports every month.
Addressing a Greek-Chinese business forum where the memorandum was signed, meanwhile, Bakoyannis said that Athens was interested in the exchange of knowhow on renewable energy sources and cooperation in tourism. In the tourist sector, Greece is seeking a share of the 22 million Chinese who visit Europe every year, a figure that is increasing rapidly. The Athens-Beijing air link set for autumn is expected to contribute in this direction, while the favourable conjuncture created with the Athens Olympic Games is continuing, since Greece will be the theme country in China in 2008 and will be the focus of attention once again.
Meanwhile, the Greek side has simplified and speeded up procedures required for the issuing of visas and as of May 5, 2007, a new consulate is operating in Canton.
Businesses that formed part of a delegation accompanying the minister held meetings with more than 200 Chinese businesses based in Beijing and Shanghai during the trip.
On Friday morning, Bakoyannis addressed the Greek Studies department at Beijing University on the Athens Olympic Games, in which she particularly emphasised the importance of the Olympic Truce.
On Friday evening, she is to attend a concert by Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti that is being held in the Forbidden City to mark the 35th anniversary since Greece and China established diplomatic relations. Her visit to China ends on Saturday, following the inauguration of the first outlet in a new chain of shops selling childrens’ clothing founded by the Greek company Folli-Follie.
The company is already established in China with a chain of 60 shops, which it plans to increase to 100 by the end of the year.