ATHENS: Greece’s debt-ridden economy has received unexpected endorsement from China as the two countries announced multibillion-dollar accords to boost co-operation in fields as diverse as shipping, tourism and telecommunications.The deals, under which Greek olive oil will be exported to China, were a welcome relief for a government smarting over the credit ratings agency Moody’s move hours earlier to downgrade the nation’s credit rating to junk.While signing the agreements, a Chinese vice-premier, Zhang Dejiang, not only praised Greece’s efforts to resolve its worst debt crisis in years but gave the euro zone’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,” Mr Zhang said after arriving 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 sees Greece as a ”perfect gateway” to the continent and Balkan peninsula, where Chinese exports have proliferated in recent years.Under the agreement, Cosco, one of the world’s largest container terminal operators, will extend its reach with the construction of up to 15 dry bulk carriers in Greece.The company took over cargo management at Piraeus, Greece’s premier dockyard, on a 35-year concession worth $US1 billion last year. The Chinese company BCEGI also signed an accord, thought to be worth about $US143 million, to develop a hotel and shopping mall complex in Piraeus.Other deals include the exchange of know-how between Huawei Technologies of China and the Greek telecoms organisation OTE, and four agreements signed by food firms to export olive oil to China.The Chinese are considering buying a stake in the loss-making railway network OSE, which the socialist government has pledged to privatise, as well as building an airport on the island of Crete, a logistics centre north of Athens, and a marine theme park, Greek officials say.China’s experience in Greece has not always been easy. Cosco’s bid to take over the administration of wharf services in Piraeus was initially met with fierce opposition from trade unions.Guardian News & Media
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