Germany allows smaller Chinese share in the port of Hamburg

Germany allows smaller Chinese share in the port of Hamburg


Germany’s coalition government on Wednesday allowed a Chinese company to take a smaller-than-planned stake in a Hamburg port after Chancellor Olaf Scholz balked at calls to ban the controversial sale outright.

The Chinese shipping giant Cosco should be allowed to acquire a stake “less than 25 percent” in an HHLA container terminal after the compromise reached by the Scholz cabinet, the Ministry of Economics said in a statement.

“The reason for the partial ban is the existence of a threat to public order and security.”

The Chinese state-owned company Cosco had originally aimed for a 35 percent stake, and the deal would have come about automatically if no compromise solution had been found this week.

The fate of the Tollerort terminal in the port of Hamburg – Europe’s third busiest – has sparked a heated argument in Scholz’s coalition government amid growing concerns that critical infrastructure is falling into foreign hands.

Scholz, a former Hamburg mayor, had supported the sale and repeatedly emphasized the importance of strong trade relations with China.

He will visit China next week, the first European Union leader to make the trip since November 2019.

But Scholz’s coalition partners, the Greens and the FDP, wanted to veto the Hamburg port deal, citing security risks.

Badly burned by its over-reliance on Russian energy, many in Germany also fear becoming too economically dependent on China.

Six German ministries, including economics, defense and foreign ministries, had spoken out against the Cosco sale.

The European Commission has also expressed reservations about the deal, a source told AFP over the weekend.

The agreement on the approval of a reduced participation of 24.9 percent and thus the withdrawal of voting rights from Cosco “reduces the takeover to a purely financial participation”, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

But the face-saving compromise didn’t silence some critics.

Anton Hofreiter, MP for the Green Party and chairman of the German Bundestag’s Europe Committee, said it was the wrong decision to give the deal the green light.

“The reasoning of (Scholz) … that it is a purely commercial project is fatally reminiscent of the statements made about Russia and Nord Stream,” he told the Funke media group.

“The attitude can be described as naive at best. We urgently need a realistic view of China.”

Beijing, meanwhile, welcomed the signing of the deal and accused critics of “hyping” the takeover.

“The cooperation is beneficial for both sides. We hope that the relevant parties will see the pragmatic cooperation between China and Germany reasonable and stop unreasonably exaggerating it,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

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