US ''interference'' in Hamburg terminal deal spooks China
07 November 2022
Beijing has reacted angrily to a US advise to Germany against its decision to sell a part of a Hamburg port terminal to Chinese shipping giant Cosco. Washington cautioned against Beijing getting a controlling stake in Hamburg's port terminal.
Last week the German cabinet approved acquisition of a 24.9 per cent stake by Cosco in one of logistics firm HHLA's three terminals in Germany's largest port, in what an economy ministry source described as an "emergency solution" to approve the deal but mitigate the impact.
Although Germany's coalition was divided over the deal, the cabinet made a compromise deal limiting the stake to 24.9 per cent against the 35 per cent Cosco had sought for.
The approved investment does not give Cosco any say in management or strategic decisions.
The decision came ahead of a scheduled departure by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Beijing for a one-day visit where he is expected to meet President Xi Jinping.
Cosco made a bid last year to take a 35 per cent stake in one of logistics firm HHLA's three terminals in Germany's largest port, but Germany's coalition was divided over the deal.
The one-quarter threshold cannot be exceeded in the future without a new investment review process, the German ministry said.
It added that Cosco is prohibited from contractually granting itself veto rights over strategic business or personnel decisions.
The deal, however, is contentious as it comes at a time when Germany is trying to wean itself off energy imports from Russi, the closest ally of China.
The investment could give leeway for Beijing to politically manipulate part of German, and European, infrastructure for political purposes.
Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock had argued that Berlin needed to avoid repeating with China the mistakes it made with Russia.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also warned against becoming too dependent on China.
"We have to learn lessons, and learning the lesson means we have to reduce unilateral dependencies wherever possible, and that applies to China in particular," Steinmeier told public broadcaster ARD during a Tuesday visit to Ukraine.
German intelligence agencies said earlier this month that China's finances might become a risk for Germany, particularly because of the strong economic and scientific ties between the two countries.
Cosco holds stakes in several other European ports, including the Greek port of Piraeus.