Greece and China are seeking ways to boost bilateral business cooperation through a two-day forum which opened here Thursday under the auspices of the Greek-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Fifteen years after the foundation of the Chamber, which links the business worlds of China and Greece, bilateral collaboration continued to advance despite difficulties such as the global financial and economic crisis, speakers said.
In 2008, bilateral trade stood at 3.31 billion euros (4 billion U.S. dollars) but dropped 13.8 percent in 2009 due to the crisis. However, efforts to build trade have continued, resulting in notable successes such as Chinese group COSCO deciding to invest 4.3 billion euros (5.187 billion U.S. dollars) in the modernization of Greece's biggest port, Piraeus.
The investment will create thousands of jobs in the debt-ridden country, help Greece to improve the competitiveness of its economy and transform Piraeus into a major gateway for Chinese products and services to Europe.
“Nations should continue to boost cooperation,” Luo Linquan, China's Ambassador to Greece, told the business forum. As a way forward, Luo suggested Greece review its strategy of promoting exports to China to focus on more unique, high-quality Greek products, culture and tourism.
Michael Karchimakis, Greek Deputy Minister for Rural Development and Food, said: “There is significant space for further collaboration in the benefit of both countries and peoples. We should work on a mutual framework to boost imports and exports from Greece to China and vice versa."
Konstantinos Papadopoulos, General Secretary of International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “It is time we solved problems, such as bureaucracy in both sides and seize opportunities."
Papadopoulos focused on the maritime sector in which bilateral ties could flourish drastically. He noted that Greek and Chinese firms had invested 2.5 billion U.S. dollars this year on ship building, while the global figure stood at 5.5 billion dollars.
It is no coincidence the second day of the forum will be held Friday by the seaside of Athens, at the venue where Posidonia 2010 is hosted.
Posidonia is the largest worldwide international shipping exhibition and is hosted every two years in Greece. This year, 87 countries, among them China, are participating in the event, which runs to Friday.
During his address, Alekos Holevas, Chairman of the Greek Foreign Trade Board, pointed out the World Expo hosted in Shanghai this year represented another opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations.
Holevas said the number of Chinese visitors to the Greek Pavilion in Shanghai exceeded all expectations. The Greek Pavilion organizers had upgraded their forecast for visitors during the six months of the Expo from an initial 1.5 million 3 million people.
Konstantinos Yiannidis, President of the Chamber expressed hope for a brighter future in bilateral ties.
"(Late Chinese leader) Deng Xiaoping once said (to the effect) that economic activity requires enthusiasm. Otherwise, it is a waste of time. The Greek-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries retains this enthusiasm,” he said.
Dong Songgen, Vice Chairman of the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), expressed respect for another civilization with a long history and said he was certain modern Greece would overcome its current debt crisis. Chinese and Greek collaboration could advance mainly in the sectors of shipping and tourism, Dong concluded.