Two years after assuming his duties as Chairman of Enterprise Greece*, Christos Staikos spoke to Greek News Agenda about the mission of Enterprise Greece, the stable increase of Greek exports and foreign investments and the chance for Greece to "turn the corner, as a great turnaround story". Staikos also commented on Greek - Chinese relations, the One Belt One Road initiative and Greece's participation at coming "Expo Astana 2017 Future Energy".
Could you briefly describe the gamut of investment sectors in which Greece excels?
Enterprise Greece is designed to assist foreign investors and enterprises to do business with Greece, to contribute to the outward looking orientation of the Greek economy, to attract foreign investment, to troubleshoot issues related to the public administration, and to provide key investment and business information, by promoting the entire range of investment sectors. The recent European Commission forecasts for positive growth in the Greek economy, are expected to have a positive effect on the international investment markets, thus sending a clear GO signal to the international investor community, effectively leading to an inflow of capital and the initiation of new investment projects. This investment spur is anticipated to be driven by high-value sectors of the economy like Tourism, Real Estate, ICT, Energy & Renewables, Food - Beverage & Agriculture, Logistics, Waste Management and Life Sciences. Greece’s exceptional human capital, advanced infrastructure, geostrategic position, and potential for economic expansion, will act as investment accelerators within Greece’s newly designed investment framework, in supporting the creation of new business, new synergies, and new partnerships.
What are the exports of Greece? In which ways does Enterprise Greece help Greek businesses to reach new markets, find new business partners, and grow faster?
Greek exports (excluding petroleum products) have demonstrated a significant, but above all stable increase during the last few years. From 16.9 billion Euro in 2014, Greek exports increased to 18.4 billion Euro in 2015 and to 18.6 billion Euro in 2016. Once focused on the safe and strong domestic demand, Greek companies and entrepreneurs especially on SME level found themselves having to start exploring new opportunities for new business development offered through export trade. Greek businesses, through the necessary support from state agencies, are now enabled to follow this new trend and build upon this positive momentum. Enterprise Greece as the competent state agency mandated to promote and facilitate exports, has designed a diversified exports trade promotion program in key business sectors, inspired by the current trade trends and feedback from the Greek companies. This program has so far demonstrated an impressive and steady increase of Greek company participation in export trade related actions and initiatives. The success of this program is more evident in several exhibitions we have participated by organising national pavilions, where the number of participating companies has demonstrated a y-o-y increase at a rate of 10% to 50%, depending on the fair. We provide the full spectrum of services related to international business relationships and domestic business development for the international market. Enterprise Greece addresses the international business community with a variety of outreach events and missions, and supports investment and trade delegations, both incoming and outgoing, and (co-)organizes the business component of official Presidential, Prime Ministerial, and Ministerial missions abroad. A key component of the international outreach program of Enterprise Greece is its integrated relationship with Greek Embassies throughout the world and close cooperation with the Offices of Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This unified approach allows the global business community to reach multiple points of contact in conducting transactions with Greece’s public and private sector organisations.
In Greece since 2015 there has been an increase in both foreign direct investments and exports. How do you explain this increase? Does this trend has an impact on Greek economic growth?
As I have already mentioned we have recorded a strong growth on exports, whereas on foreign investments in 2016 FDI Inflows (net) stood at nearly 2.8 billion Euro, significantly higher than that of 2015 (1.02 billion Euro) and higher than that of 2014 (2.02 billion Euro). Apart from the major shift in the orientation of the Greek business community in becoming more extrovert and seeking new business opportunities abroad, on another level the Greek government has set key priorities for economic growth: a) to create high value and set the conditions for inclusive growth, b) to create new jobs by capitalizing on the high caliber of human capital, c) To promote outward looking and export oriented sectors and d) to support innovative and dynamic companies through a lean and supporting public sector and a stable environmental friendly framework for investments. In parallel, a new set of policy measures is under implementation, including: the absorption of the available Structural Funds for the period 2014-2020, the new investment law and the provision of investment incentives for new investments, the cooperation with international financial institutions like EIB, EIF, EBRD, IFC, Black Sea Trade & Development Bank, etc., to increase liquidity and ease investment financing, the newly launched NPLs framework, the acceleration of the privatization agenda and the new licensing framework designed in cooperation with World Bank. We have seen that this new reform agenda is paying back and we now do have early signs of economic growth in the economy, namely export development and new investments, as I mentioned before.
Enterprise Greece has rolled out an ambitious development strategy focusing on Greek high quality food & wine products. What do you what to achieve with this strategy and what are the results so far ?
Greek food and wine are famous of their premium quality. Since 2015 we’ve been actively promoting Greek food and wine exports through various promotional activities. We organize the national participation at the biggest food exhibitions in the world where under the slogan ‘Invest in Taste’, we invite trade visitors to select Greek products, ‘investing’ in that way to good health and their well being, the main attributes of the Mediterranean diet. About our wine, the indigenous Greek varieties are becoming more and more famous all over the world, thanks to increased promotion and the growing number of tourists visiting Greece every year and taking the opportunity to sample our unique grape varieties. Recent data show that Greek wine is increasing its market share in competitive international markets, in the US, Northern Europe and South East Asia. Our promotion strategy consists of alternative promotional activities in those markets, implemented in cooperation with the Greek Wine Association. The results are more than satisfactory so far, with the Greek food and wine exports increasing by 10% between 2015 and 2016 reaching 4,2 billion euro, defying the unfavorable global economic climate.
Is it a good period to invest in Greece? What are the most attractive investment opportunities for foreign investors ?
Greece today is ready to turn the corner, as a great turnaround story. Greece has been in a process to overhaul its economy towards Foreign Direct Investments and Export trade. Reforms and structural adjustments are in the frontline and it is now evident to all that there is a strong commitment to change in Greece, enabled by the political leadership. There is a new viewing angle now, it actively fosters relations with international investors and business leaders looking at the international markets and establishing lasting partnerships. Most importantly though it is the society as a whole which has embraced the narrative of change, and is supporting the changes and engaging with the global community. With so many changes happening in the economy we are bound to create at least as many opportunities: our tourism industry a recognized international leader, the rapidly developing mobile-tech and high-tech industries which are increasingly attracting global attention, diverse business sectors such as minerals, biotech, and environmental management continue to offer broad investment and trade opportunities, new energy sources and networks are reshaping our energy sector, the developing international sector of economic residence drives our competitive yet prime real estate sector, the worldwide popularity of the Mediterranean diet is rejuvenating and growing our food and beverage industry, Greece’s geographical position as a gateway between East and West renders it highly attractive for investments in logistics and transport. Enterprise Greece is continuously promoting investment opportunities in all these sectors, to interested investors that contact us.
There is a view that China will benefit disproportionately enormously in Europe with the Belt and Road project. In your opinion is the New Silk Road initiative bringing risks for Greece? How Greece could benefit from this initiative?
Greece and China both have a long cultural heritage, they both share a deep appreciation on each other’s culture, their diplomatic relations span for nearly half a century and over the last 11 years they have forged a strong bilateral strategic partnership. This partnership initiated with the investment of COSCO at Piraeus port, a project that transformed Greece to a major hub of the OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative through the positioning of Greece in the Maritime Silk Road. It is one of the largest investments taking place in Greece, with major spillover growth effects on various sectors of the economy. Greece, despite being a small country in size though with significant presence, has followed the OBOR initiative is looking to cooperate with Chinese in this framework, as a European country . Within that context our PM Alexis Tsipras will be visiting Beijing for one more time in Mid May to participate on high-level meetings of the OBOR initiative about infrastructure development in the Middle-East, Central Asia and the fringes of Europe, necessary for the deployment of the “New Silk Road”. We have the chance to be part of China’s maritime route to Europe and effectively the entrance to the European market, and this brings profound benefits for Greece on its trade, shipping and tourism industries, with solid expectations shaping on a monthly basis for new business development and growth on infrastructure, transport, real estate, energy, shipbuilding, agriculture and construction sectors. Following COSCO’s investment in Piraeus several other smaller or bigger business deals have realised all over Greece by Chinese organizations thus creating win-win situations for all.
Enterprise Greece is participating at the coming Expo Astana 2017 Future Energy. What are your expectations of this participation?
Indeed we are very happy to participate at "EXPO ASTANA 2017" world exhibition and we have a first class opportunity to strengthen the long-standing close cooperation we always shared between our two countries, Kazakhstan and Greece. The fact that the exhibition focuses on energy issues is of particular importance to Greece, especially as our country is undertaking a comprehensive transformation of its energy sector with enhanced social care attributes, cross-border cooperation and security in the region, diversification of its energy supply and further change on its energy mix, with further development of renewable energy sources. On the other hand Greece acting as an important partner in the wider Balkan region, will give new impetus to the economic and cultural bilateral relations of the two countries, given that in Kazakhstan the existing Greek diaspora exceeds 10,000 people. The exhibition itself is an important international forum that gives Greece the opportunity to promote the high level of know-how and experience of Greek companies in the field of renewable energy and to attract foreign direct investment both in the energy sector and in other strategic economic sectors. The aim is to utilize "EXPO ASTANA 2017" as an international platform to promote Greek products, to strengthen Greek exports to the wider market and to promote our country as a unique tourist destination, as the exhibition is expected to welcome more than 10 million visitors.
*ENTERPRISE GREECE is the official agency of the Greek State, under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy & Development, to showcase Greece as an attractive destination for investment and to promote the highly competitive products and services produced in Greece for export. Enterprise Greece assists foreign investors and enterprises to do business with Greece, troubleshoots issues related to the public administration, provides key information about Greece as an investment destination and promotes the investment sectors in which Greece excels. In addition, it promotes Greek products and services to the global marketplace, helps Greek businesses reach new markets, find new business partners, and become more competitive and attractive. To learn more about the many investment and trade opportunities Greece offers, visit www.enterprisegreece.gov.gr
Interview by Irini Anastopoulou