China-Greece cooperation on display at CIIE
A man passes Greece's exhibition hall during the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November 2018. Photo: IC
The forthcoming second China International Import Expo (CIIE) will act as another major driver for the bilateral cooperation between China and Greece based on their sound political foundation, Greek business representatives and experts said on Monday.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is leading a delegation of 68 Greek companies in Shanghai for the second CIIE, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Greek-Chinese economic cooperation will be strengthened further and has the potential to develop in a number of areas, said Mitsotakis at a business forum in Shanghai on Monday.
Meanwhile, Greek companies say they have high expectations for the second CIIE and are looking forward to gaining more access to the Chinese market.
"The Chinese wine market is changing, and the consumers are well educated and becoming wine enthusiasts," Liakos Constantinos, co-founder and CMO of Greek wine importer Hellenic Agora Trading, told the Global Times on Monday.
"For that reason, our company is participating in the CIIE exhibition for the second time, offering the opportunity to wine professionals and consumers to taste Greek wines from different wine regions," Constantinos said.
Looking at the bigger picture, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries also enjoys a sound foundation, Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Greece has been a full member of the cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European Countries since April, expanding the previous "16+1" cooperation mechanism into "17+1."
Greece also signed a memorandum of understanding with China regarding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in August 2018. The geopolitical position of Greece offers significant business opportunities for the BRI in southern Europe.
Additionally, the Greek Prime Minister has led a delegation to come to Shanghai to attend the second CIIE, which will certainly aid cooperation.
As such, there are several very good political and economic drivers for bilateral cooperation between China and Greece, according to Ding.
Moreover, Greek-Chinese economic cooperation was particularly notable during the European debt crisis, Ding noted.
In his speech on Monday, Mitsotakis also mentioned China's past investment in Greece when other countries shied away. "Investment like COSCO in the port Piraeus is an example of how an important Chinese company is bold enough to invest in Greece - in an important Greek infrastructure project - at a time when Greece was considered un-investable by many other countries," he said.
Dominique de Villepin, former Prime Minister of France, said at a symposium in Shanghai last week that China COSCO Shipping is now taking a majority stake in Greece's largest port, which didn't happen suddenly. Over the years, the Chinese company increased its share gradually, and during that course, Greece and COSCO have gradually built up trust.
"The Chinese investment has greatly improved the handling capacity of the port, maintained local employment and promoted the Piraeus port's role among European ports," Ding remarked. "The COSCO investment in the Greek port is actually a demonstrative example of China-Europe cooperation, because the cooperation was based on the principle of mutual benefit and trust."
To a certain extent, Chinese investment has offered a material boost to Greece's economic recovery, Ding noted.
According to media reports, the Greek government now expects its economic growth to pick up 2 percent in 2019 and by at least 2.8 percent next year. It is forecast that unemployment will decline to 15.6 percent in 2020, down from 17.4 percent in 2019.
"As Greece is on track for a strong recovery, we are confident that we are heading toward a new chapter for Greek-Chinese economic cooperation," Mitsotakis said.
"So far, investment flows from China to Greece have been primarily directed to sectors such as infrastructure, energy and real estate. I believe there is great potential in other sectors such as renewable energy, clean tech, ICD, logistics, healthcare, agriculture and tourism."
In 2018, total bilateral trade between China and Greece reached $7.06 billion, up 36.3 percent year-on-year, data from China's Ministry of Commerce showed.