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Resilience in adversity

   Aug 09, 2021
Credit : GMI Post

Just as it emerged from a 10-year recession and exited the International Monetary Fund rescue plan, Greece found itself facing financial turmoil anew from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has paralyzed economic activity and travel across the world. To survive, Greece drew on the harsh lessons it learned over the past decade.

Previous governments had established deep economic reforms and business-friendly policies that remained in place during the pandemic and decided to continue with fiscal discipline policies. As a result, it seems the country has weathered the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the European Commission predicts the Greek economy will grow 4.1% this year and 6% in 2022.

A big driver of Greece’s economic resurgence was the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Minister Giannis Plakiotakis said was “an admirable example of (our) adherence to the free trade principle.”

Since the EU-Japan EPA came into force in 2019, just before COVID-19 broke out, Greece has seen its exports to Japan nearly double, according to the Panhellenic Exporters Association.

“A wide range of new partnership possibilities seems to be emerging in such fields like renewable energy, climate change and information and communication technology. I understand that the Greek government has high expectations for further sharpening its focus on Japan, especially in attracting more Japanese investments,” Japanese Ambassador to Greece Yasunori Nakayama said.

While Greek exporters might be the first to admit that they cannot compete with their larger EU neighbors in terms of volume or price, they have found a very receptive market among the Japanese, who are known for their high standards of quality.

By resisting mass production, Greek producers are able to market their goods as artisanal and of the highest quality.

“There is no doubt that the future is bright particularly because of the innovative spirit of our two economies. Greek exports to Japan – dairy products, olive oil, canned fruits, honey, pastries, and other agrifood products – have grown significantly over the past years. In the first 10 months of 2020, exports of all goods from Greece to Japan increased 36.8% and reached €560 million (around $633 million),” said Vasileios Gounaris, president of the Hellenic Association of Chemical Industries.

“The EU-Japan EPA has had a very positive impact on the Greek exports to Japan, especially for the food and beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors. There is strong interest in Japan to import innovative, natural cosmetics,” Gounaris added.

Another important advantage are the values that the Japanese market shares with Greek companies: sustainability, respect for the environment and the close relationships between manufacturers and customers.

“It’s a great honor to be able to sell our products to the Japanese market today and to have Japanese consumers trust us. The combination of quality, safety, our industry’s care for its footprint and the high value we put in our processes make our products worthy to be at your table” said Konstantinos Apostolou, president of the Greek Canners’ Association.

Like in Japan, many companies in Greece have built their ties with suppliers and buyers over many generations, not unusual in a market where small businesses remain family-owned and family-run.

Led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the government is overseeing a huge inflow of foreign investment, a significant part from the Greek diaspora, particularly from the United States, the U.K. and Australia. Many decades after their parents or grandparents sought greener pastures abroad, a new generation has come back to contribute to the modernization of Greece’s economy.

“Greece is focused on building confidence among foreign investors by implementing structural reform, streamlining bureaucracy, improving the investment climate and studying how technology can support better services. The country offers advantages in terms of geography and human resources, and, with the coming changes in the work environment, can attract a huge number of digital nomads,” said Canon Hellas Country Manager Fotis Rellias.

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