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PCCI president Vassilis Korkidis interview to Dawei Peng for China News

«The new fire lit by Cosco is called to be extinguished by the Greek government. It seems that Cosco Shipping is preparing one more subsidiary trade company for the general supply of ships, provoking and ignoring the hundreds of small and medium-sized ship Greek supply companies in the port of Piraeus, who feel that the Chinese company has come to take it all. This is proved to be not a port investment agreement, as it should be, but a monopolistic behavior creating unfair competition in an EU country, that will not be unanswered by PCCI.

  1. Do you think this is the right time for the EU and China to sign such an agreement?

China’s economy seems to be resisting, recording a significant increase in growth rates despite the pandemic. China’s exports in 2020 rose by 7.6%, while in the first 10 months of this year, foreign trade in Chinese goods amounted to 3.91 trillion U.S. dollars. The largest trading partner of China during 2020 were countries of Southeast Asia with the European Union and the United States following. Therefore, the EU and China should consider the prospect of an agreement that will “unlock” a bilateral trade relation, but not now. To me opinion this kind of investment agreements must be discussed and signed during a regular period, but who knows, perhaps are more successful when are concluded in a «force majeure» situation.

  1. What impact will the EU-China agreement have on current EU-China trade and FDI flows? Can Greek companies also benefit from this agreement?

It is worth noticing that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic alone, a total of 758 multinational corporations and 475 research and development centers were established in Shanghai, which is becoming the main gateway for multinational companies in the Asian region, with the added value of its financial sector now surpassing that of London and Tokyo. Real foreign capital inflows increased by 6.1% year-on-year to $ 15.5 billion, while a total of 758 multinational corporations and 475 R&D centers were established in the city amid of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is obvious that Greek companies can benefit by addressing the giant Chinese market. It is also obvious that it will contribute to the further development of Greek-Chinese cooperation in shipping. The Piraeus companies look forward to open their horizons of cooperation between the two countries and especially in the field of shipbuilding and repairs. The COSCO presence in Piraeus should try more to «open the gates» for cooperation, something which the Piraeus businesses eagerly desire, in order the Greek economy to be benefited by the added value of the Chinese economy size.

  1. After the signing of the bilateral investment agreement, will the EU and China be able to start negotiations on a free trade agreement soon?

There are so many difficulties at the moment that makes really difficult to add on the Euro agenda, such technical  negotiations with China. There are certainly urgent priorities for all the European countries and EU decisions usually take time. Furthermore, the impact of COVID on international trade has been slightly less dramatic than forecast. A recent Tradeshift report showed that trade activity globally rose 15.2% in Q3 compared to the previous quarter. The Eurozone’s post-COVID recovery outpaced other Western economies and China. Eurozone transactions grew nearly 26% in Q3, above the U.S. (17.2 %), China (8.9 %), the UK (6.1 %) and the global average increase of 15.2 %. Retail volumes rose 78 % in July as more shops reopened. This may look different in the last quarter given renewed restrictions. The report forecast a deep second wave combined with other shocks such as a no-deal Brexit could pull Europe’s upwards trajectory off course. In the long-standing EU-US dispute over subsidies to Boeing and Airbus, the WTO Appellate Body confirmed that US subsidies to Boeing were incompatible with WTO rules, allowing the EU to impose tariffs on US exports worth $4 billion annually, which member states have agreed to implement immediately. These include additional tariffs of 15% on aircraft and 25% on US fish, cheese, nuts, sweet potatoes, tobacco, chocolate, orange juice, rum, alcohol, coal, certain pharmaceuticals, other chemicals, diesel engine parts, tractors and certain excavators, moped parts and bicycle parts and spermaceti, mirroring the tariffs imposed by the US after the WTO case on subsidies to Airbus. More positively, a EU-US mini-deal was agreed in August to eliminate tariffs on EU imports of US live and frozen lobster (worth $111 million in 2017). As set out in the update above, any change in the US approach to trade and the WTO will have to await President-elect Biden’s inauguration in January and the appointment of a new USTR. The updated EU-Mexico agreement making practically all trade in goods between them duty-free still needs legal revision and translation into all EU languages, and will then go for signature and conclusion to the Council and European Parliament. An important step to help traders, particularly SMEs, increase their business is the Commission Access2Market online portal which makes it easier to calculate tariffs and other requirements when importing or exporting a specific product. Filing customs declarations should also become easier with the new Commission proposal on a «Single Window» which aims at combining administrative obligations under one roof.

 

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