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Updated: October 3, 2010 20:30 IST

Premier Wen backs Greece, calls for closer economic ties

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Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao , acknowledges his audience's applause in the Greek parliament in Athens, on Sunday. Wen is visiting Greece ahead of an EU-China summit this week. Speaking at Greece's parliament , Wen urged the EU to recognize China's
AP Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao , acknowledges his audience's applause in the Greek parliament in Athens, on Sunday. Wen is visiting Greece ahead of an EU-China summit this week. Speaking at Greece's parliament , Wen urged the EU to recognize China's "full market economy status" and relax remaining restrictions to high-tech exports.

The two countries and business representatives signed 11 cooperation agreements on shipping, trade, culture and tourism. Beijing wants to double its imports of Greek goods, Wen said.

China is ready to intensify cooperation with Greece and help the country tide over its current difficulties at an early date, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Athens on Sunday.

“We applaud the efforts taken by the Greek government to tackle the international financial crisis and the debt crisis. And we support the measures taken by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in this regard,” Wen said during a speech at the parliament.

“We are certain: Greece will overcome the crisis,” Wen told the Greek Parliament. “We’re willing to offer disinterested help to that end.” He had already promised on Saturday that China would buy Greek bonds.

“It’s a strategic alliance,” Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said after a two-hour meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

The two countries and business representatives signed 11 cooperation agreements on shipping, trade, culture and tourism. Beijing wants to double its imports of Greek goods, Wen said. “It’s a very important endorsement for us,” Papandreou added.

The premier, who arrived in Athens on Saturday on a three-day official visit, said “We hope that by intensifying cooperation with you, we can be of some help in your endeavour to tide over difficulties at an early date.” Since the beginning of this year, the two countries have signed 20 cooperation agreements and business contracts, he said, adding that Greek exports to China in the first half of this year doubled compared with the same period last year.

Wen suggested that the two countries expand cooperation in four fields. China and Greece, he said, should broaden bilateral trade, actively explore new areas of trade, and strive to double their bilateral trade volume to 8 billion U.S. dollars in five years.

China would like to import more products that meet the demand of the Chinese market, such as olive oil and wines, so as to “make our bilateral trade not only bigger, but also more balanced,” he said.

The two countries should deepen maritime cooperation as well, Wen said, adding that China will work with Greece to manage well the Piraeus Container Terminal and increase its capacity to 3.7 million TEUs by 2015.

According to media reports in both countries, Beijing wants to make Greece a centre for its exports in south-east and eastern Europe. In 2008, the Chinese shipping group COSCO secured the contract to run container terminals in the port of Piraeus.

The Chinese are planning another hub for their products in the port of Eleusis, west of Athens, and are also looking to buy into the port of Thessaloniki in the north of the country, the reports said.

The Chinese have also expressed interest in buying parts of the Greek railway company OSE. China would like to send a trade and investment promotion group to Greece as early as possible to seek cooperation projects in infrastructure and new energy sources, he said.

The Premier also called on China and Greece to expand tourism cooperation. China welcomes greater tourism promotion efforts by Greece in China and hopes to jointly explore measures to facilitate tourism cooperation, he said.

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