Athens - China and Greece agreed to push ahead with a 600 million euros investment by COSCO Shipping into Greece’s largest port, Piraeus, as part of efforts to boost its role as a hub in rapidly growing trade between Asia and Europe.
The agreement, part of 16 trade deals signed between Greece and China, came during an official visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Athens on Monday. The two countries have drawn closer since 2009 when COSCO won a 35-year concession to upgrade and run container cargo piers in Piraeus (OLPr.AT).
COSCO Shipping [601919.SS] bought a majority 51% stake in Piraeus port in 2016. COSCO plans to turn Piraeus port into the biggest commercial harbor in Europe, spending about 600 million euros ($660 million) to boost operations, including mandatory investments of 300 million euros by 2022 which once concluded will allow it to acquire an additional 16% stake in the port. But opposition from local communities prompted Greece to reject COSCO’s proposals for a new container terminal in Piraeus last month, saying that conditions “were not ripe” yet.
Xi met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding, stating their mutual will to overcome any obstacles in the implementation of COSCO’s investment in Piraeus, a Greek government official said.