Greek PM Antonis Samaras visits China in effort to boost ailing economy
Antonis Samaras begins four-day trade trip accompanied by around 60 businesspeople
Agence France-Presse in Athens and Beijing
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras kicked off his four-day trip to China yesterday, hoping it will help his country's ailing economy by attracting investment and promoting the export of Greek products.
Upon the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, Samaras will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, and will meet several Chinese officials.
He is the second EU leader, after French President Francois Hollande, to visit since the new leadership came to power.
Samaras will be accompanied by his ministers of foreign affairs, tourism, development and merchant marine and a group of around 60 Greek businesspeople.
Emphasising the importance of the visit, media reported that the premier, who is expected to sign a series of bilateral and business agreements, hopes to turn Greece into a gateway to Europe and will discuss issues of transport, energy, privatisation, shipping and tourism.
Already in Beijing, Greek Deputy Minister for Development Notis Mitarachi said the visit signalled "a new page" in relations between the countries.
"Greece's relations with China have been good for years. It is now important to further develop specific collaboration agreements regarding investment and exports," Mitarachi told the Athens News Agency (ANA) last week.
"There is particular interest [on behalf of China] in infrastructure, namely ports and airports," he added.
China has recently made several big investments in various sectors of the Greek economy.
Most notably, in 2008 China's giant transportation group Cosco became a major force in the main Greek port of Piraeus near Athens, while in March, US computer giant Hewlett-Packard sealed a deal with Cosco to move a key part of its regional supplies through Piraeus.
According to ANA, Samaras' meetings will focus on further developing Piraeus as a gateway for Chinese products into Europe.
Chinese ambassador in Athens Du Qiwen stressed the importance of Samaras' meetings.
"There is serious interest shown by a group of Chinese businesses. They are seriously interested in participating in the privatisation process of Athens international airport," he said.