Greek exports to China jumped 55.9 pct in 2010, Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Monday, during an address at the high-profile 2011 Greek-Chinese Business Forum in Athens.
The Greek minister added that the east Mediterranean country's ambition was to further increase exports, saying that economic powerhouse China is a timeless and significant partner for the country.

Within this framework, he called on Chinese entrepreneurs and multinationals to take advantage of a new investment environment created in Greece and to develop joint actions with local enterprises in fields where both countries have increased know-how, especially in ocean-going shipping, tourism, energy, commerce and constructions.

"The future of the Greek economy is in exports. The present is already promising. We are implementing a major plan covering the creation of financing tools to support exports and to abolish all counter-incentives,” Chryssohoidis said.

Tourism boost

On his part, Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos noted that 2010 witnessed a 75-percent increase in the number of Chinese nationals visiting Greece, although he noted that the absolute number still remains low, at roughly 15,000.

Geroulanos emphasised that Greece is keenly interested in attracting visitors from China and other so-called "BRIC" countries, such as Russia, Turkey and India.

He nevertheless cited three obstacles that the Greek side must overcome in order to boost arrivals from China, namely, easier issuance of Schengen Pact visas for Chinese nationals; a permanent air link connecting Beijing and Athens as well as a better understanding by Greek entrepreneurs of the vast Chinese market and Chinese society.

Geroulanos said Greek authorities have already issued directives to consulates to streamline and simplify visa-issuing procedures, while reminding that Greece supports easier visa rules for nationals from China, Russia and Turkey. Additionally, he praised the recent inauguration of an Air China route from Beijing to Athens via Munich, saying interest exists by other air carriers as well.

Finally, the minister said the ministry is already implementing two joint campaigns in China, a Greece-Turkey promotion and a Greece-Israel joint promotion, while talks are being held with Italian and Egyptian tourism authorities for similar promotions.

"We believe the future lies in China," the minister said.

The ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Greece, Luo Linquan, expressed China’s support to the country’s efforts to promote cooperation between Greek and Chinese enterprises, stressing Chinese multinational Cosco's agreement to operate cargo terminals at the port of Piraeus -- the largest in Greece -- are progressing smoothly, while he announced that a large business delegation from Canton was expected to visit Greece over the next few days for contacts with Greek business people.

Zhang Yujing, the president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, said bilateral trade now totals 4.35 billion euros, while he added that 86 Chinese entrepreneurs from 61 enterprises are participating in the Athens forum with the aim to sign agreements with representatives of 187 Greek businesses.

Konstantinos Hasiotis, an advisor to Minister of State Haris Pamboukis, said the goal was for Greece to become an attractive investment destination, while Costas Yannidis, the president of the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber said that despite an ongoing economic crisis, Greece remains a “gate” for Europe and the Balkans along with a valuable companion for Middle East markets.

Constantine Papadopoulos, secretary-general of the international economic affairs of the foreign affairs ministry, told the forum that Greece was the 25th customer of China, while 75 pct of Greek exports to China covered raw and construction materials, whereas the vast majority of Chinese exports to Greece were industrial and retail products.