Monday, November 29, 1999

China `builds a nest` in Greece with 14 biz deals

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Athens, June 16 -- Greece's debt-ridden economy has received unexpected endorsement from China as the two countries announced multibillion euro accords to boost cooperation in fields as diverse as shipping, tourism and telecommunications. The deals, which will see Greek olive oil being exported to China, were a welcome relief for a government smarting over the credit ratings agency Moody's move to downgrade the nation's credit rating to junk. As investors moved in the other direction, the world's pre-eminent emerging economy embraced Greece. Signing the agreements, China's vice premier Zhang Dejiang not only lauded Athens' efforts to resolve its worst debt crisis in years but gave the eurozone's weakest link a public vote of confidence, declaring it would soon come out of the woods. "I am convinced that Greece can overcome its current economic difficulties," said the leader, who arrived in Athens with 30 of China's leading businessmen. "The Chinese government will encourage Chinese businesses to come to Greece to seek investment opportunities." Greek officials said the 14 deals amounted to the biggest single investment by China in Europe. China views Greece as a "perfect gateway" to the continent and Balkan peninsular where Chinese exports have proliferated in recent years. The deals are all the more surprising because China's experience in Greece has not always been easy. Cosco's bid to take over the day-to-day administration of wharf services at the state-controlled port of Piraeus were initially met with fierce opposition from trade unions led by ruling socialists. But Cosco's chairman, Wei Jiafu, till recently vilified in Greece, is now referred to affectionately by the local media as "Captain Wei.""We have constructed such a nest in your country to attract such Chinese eagles. This is our contribution to you."

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