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Premier Li meets Greek PM in Beijing

Reporter: Han Peng 丨 CCTV.com

07-05-2016 17:28 BJT

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Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is continuing his official visit to China. On Monday, he met with premier Li Keqiang in Beijing's Great Hall of the People. His visit is widely seen to promote investment deals and bilateral relations amid Greece's ongoing debt crisis.

The welcome ceremony for the Greek Prime Minister is as solemn as usual. But there's an unusual informality, with neither side wearing neck ties. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised during his election that he would not wear a tie until Greece solves its debt crisis with the European Union. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang matched his partner's dress code.

"China firmly supports the European integration process and has always believed that a prosperous and stable European Union is beneficial to all member states. China hopes Greece will make more positive contributions to China-EU relations," said Premier Li.

Trade between the two countries has been hit hard since the debt crisis began.

According to the Eurostat statistics agency, the trade volume has dropped by 40 percent from US$5 billion in 2008 to just over 3 billion last year. With Brexit adding to the crisis, Tsipras's visit to China aims to boost bilateral trade. The two sides have signed 9 major deals in sectors ranging from finance to technology and tourism.

Ahead of the visit, the two countries reached a landmark agreement, in which the Chinese shipping company COSCO bought a 67 percent share of the Greek port of Piraeus. The Greek Prime Minister hailed the deal as a springboard for the two sides to take a big step forward on maritime cooperation.

Piraeus is Greece's biggest port, which is struggling with protests over fears of job cuts.

China's ambassador to Greece called the deal a “once-in-a-thousand-year opportunity” for the two countries. He says the port will be a "dragon head" of China’s efforts to build a new network of shipping and rail links under China's Belt and Road initiative.

"We do not see China's Belt and Road construction as a rivalry to Europe. On the contrary, we believe it will enrich trade opportunities and become a great success. Greece can be China's gateway to Europe due to its geostrategic position," said Alexis Tsipras.

With Beijing eyeing bigger access to the European market, and Athens looking to attract more investment to get its economy back on its feet, there seems to be much at stake in the region for the two countries.

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