Golden Relationship Gears Up for a New Takeoff – An ExclusiveInterview with Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport ChristosStaikouras
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis paid an official visit to China on November 2-3, 2023, ahead of the 6thChina International Import Expo (CIIE). It was his second official visit to China. The first one was made during the2nd CIIE in November 2019, less than half a year after he took office. The two trips show the importance theGreek prime minister gives to Greece-China bilateral relations and the CIIE.
Having kicked off on November 5, the annual import expo is playing a bigger role as a platform for internationalprocurement, investment promotion, people-to-people exchanges and cooperation by leveraging China’senormous market. More than 70 countries and international organizations are taking part in the ongoing edition.
As a frequenter of the CIIE, Greece has marked its presence this year with a national pavilion, a food andbeverages pavilion and a pavilion for consumer goods. Twenty companies, including the Piraeus Chamber ofCommerce 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-qualitycooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and tap and expand mutually beneficial cooperation in such fieldsas shipbuilding, shipping and clean energy. Greece also welcomes more Chinese tourists.
The Greek prime minister’s delegation included Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport ChristosStaikouras, who attended the opening ceremony of the 6th CIIE on behalf of Mitsotakis.
In an exclusive interview with China Today, Christos Staikouras, who was Greek finance minister from 2019 to2023 and was named Finance Minister of the Year 2023 for Europe by The Banker magazine for hisperformance in stimulating Greece’s economic growth, shared his views on Greece-China cooperation in trade,infrastructure and transport.
What do you think of the role of the CIIE in promoting global trade and creating opportunities forforeign companies and products to enter the Chinese market?
How do you think the CIIE has promoted the Greek presence in China?
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 sixconsecutive years, Greece has an enhanced presence in the CIIE.
Indeed, the investment of Greek companies in China is remarkable, especially in the such sectors as plastics,industry, cosmetics, food and beverages, mining, IT, shipping and tourism. However, we should explore ways tofurther tap the huge potential of our bilateral trade.
What are the highlights of the Greece Pavilion this year?
This year Greece is represented by 20 dynamic export companies in fields involvingshipping, manufacturing, winemaking and services, among others. Their quality products can meet thediversified needs of the Chinese market, paving the way for a greater Greek export presence in China.
How is China-Greece cooperation in infrastructure and transport going? What do you think of theprospect of bilateral cooperation in the two sectors?
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 betweenour 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 weekbetween Shanghai and Athens, starting in April 2024. In the future, we can further expand our cooperation intransport and infrastructure.
China’s electric vehicle (EV) brands’ presence in Europe is increasing due to their advancedtechnology and reasonable prices. We learned that Greece will import 250 EV buses from China. What do youthink of China’s EV industry and bilateral cooperation potential in this field?
To promote sustainable transport in Greece, in line with the EU’s goal for achievingclimate neutrality by 2050, as well as with the aim of enhancing mobility and accessibility, the Ministry ofInfrastructure 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 firsttender was launched and a contract for 250 12-meter-long electric buses was signed with the Chinese companyYutong as the contractor. Our goal is to put these climate-friendly buses to use before the end of the firstsemester of 2024. The same process will be followed for the new tenders, based on EU rules.
The China-Greece cooperation in building the Piraeus Port has become one of the mostrepresentative examples of jointly building the Belt and Road. It has made Piraeus the largest port in theMediterranean and the fourth largest in Europe. What caused this miracle? What do you think of the bilateralcooperation potential in infrastructure?
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, thisinvestment has contributed to the overall upgrading of our port, which has evolved into an important hubbetween East and West in the Mediterranean basin. Greek expectations remain high about the creation of newjobs and the increase of economic activity, as a result of this investment.