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A Golden Relationship Gears Up for a New Takeoff

2023-11-30 16:35:00 Source:China Today Author:staff reporter ZHANG HUI
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An Exclusive Interview with Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Christos Staikouras.

The Greek National Pavilion at the sixth CIIE.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis paid an official visit to China on November 2-3, 2023, ahead of the sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE). It was his second official visit to China. The first one was made during the second CIIE in November 2019, less than half a year after he took office. The two trips show the importance the Greek prime minister gives to Greece-China relations and the CIIE.

Having kicked off on November 5, the annual import expo is playing a bigger role as a platform for international procurement, investment promotion, people-to-people exchanges, and cooperation by leveraging China’s enormous market. More than 70 countries and international organizations took part in the expo.

As a frequenter of the CIIE, Greece has marked its presence this year with a national pavilion, a food and beverages pavilion, and a pavilion for consumer goods. Twenty companies, including the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are showcasing some of the comparative advantages of Greece.

Mitsotakis, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 3, said Greece is ready to continue high-quality cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and tap and expand mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields as shipbuilding, shipping and clean energy. Greece also welcomes more Chinese tourists.

The Greek prime minister’s delegation included Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Christos Staikouras, who attended the opening ceremony of the sixth CIIE on behalf of Mitsotakis.

In an exclusive interview with China Today, Christos Staikouras, who was Greek finance minister from 2019 to 2023 and was named Finance Minister of the Year 2023 for Europe by The Banker magazine for his performance in stimulating Greece’s economic growth, shared his views on Greece-China cooperation in trade, infrastructure and transport.

Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Christos Staikouras at a reception event hosted by Enterprise Greece on November 5, 2023 during his visit of Shanghai for the sixth CIIE. 

China Today: What do you think of the role of the CIIE in promoting global trade and creating opportunities for foreign companies and products to enter the Chinese market? How do you think the CIIE has promoted the Greek presence in China?

Christos Staikouras: We think the role the CIIE has played in promoting global trade is significant and well-recognized globally. It offers an excellent opportunity for stakeholders of the global economy to exchange views, to promote global trade, to tackle common challenges, and to create opportunities. This is why, for six consecutive years, Greece has an enhanced presence in the CIIE.

Indeed, the investment of Greek companies in China is remarkable, especially in such sectors as plastics, industry, cosmetics, food and beverages, mining, IT, shipping, and tourism. However, we should explore ways to further tap the huge potential of our bilateral trade.

China Today: What are the highlights of the Greece Pavilion this year?

Christos Staikouras: This year Greece is represented by 20 dynamic export companies in fields involving shipping, manufacturing, winemaking, and services, among others. Their quality products can meet the diversified needs of the Chinese market, paving the way for a greater Greek export presence in China.

China Today: How is China-Greece cooperation in infrastructure and transport going? What do you think of the prospect of bilateral cooperation in the two sectors?

Christos Staikouras: We welcome the signing of the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between Greece and China.

This agreement establishes a modern and liberalized framework for the operation of direct air services between our two countries, further promotes aviation relations and facilitates the movement of people and goods, becoming a key factor in the growth of bilateral tourism and commercial needs.

We are pleased that the Shanghai-headquartered Juneyao Airlines recently announced three flights per week between Shanghai and Athens, starting in April 2024. In the future, we can further expand our cooperation in transport and infrastructure.

Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Christos Staikouras (third left) at the sixth CIIE poses for a photo with Secretary General of International Economic Relations and Openness and Chair of the Board of Enterprise Greece Maira Myrogianni (third right), and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis (second right). Photos courtesy of Enterprise Greece

China Today: China’s electric vehicle (EV) brands’ presence in Europe is increasing due to their advanced technology and reasonable prices. We learned that Greece will import 250 EV buses from China. What do you think of China’s EV industry and bilateral cooperation potential in this field?

Christos Staikouras: To promote sustainable transport in Greece, in line with the EU’s goal for achieving climate neutrality by 2050, as well as with the aim of enhancing mobility and accessibility, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport has proceeded with a series of actions to renew the Greek public bus fleet with anti-pollution technology buses.

In line with the medium-term supply plan of 1,300 new vehicles through open international tenders, the first tender was launched and a contract for 250 12-meter-long electric buses was signed with the Chinese company Yutong as the contractor. Our goal is to put these climate-friendly buses to use before the end of the first semester of 2024. The same process will be followed for the new tenders, based on EU rules.

China Today: The China-Greece cooperation in building the Piraeus Port has become one of the most representative examples of jointly building the Belt and Road. It has made Piraeus the largest port in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in Europe. What caused this miracle? What do you think of the bilateral cooperation potential in infrastructure?

Christos Staikouras: Our approach to connectivity is based on the importance of market rules, transparency, open procurement, a level-playing field and fair competition.

The investment of Chinese shipping company COSCO in Piraeus Port is based on these principles. Indeed, this investment has contributed to the overall upgrading of our port, which has evolved into an important hub between East and West in the Mediterranean basin. Greek expectations remain high about the creation of new jobs and the increase of economic activity, as a result of this investment.

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