Germany greenlights Chinese stake in Hamburg Port
The German government has given a final approval to a long-debated agreement that allows China’s state-run company COSCO to purchase a major stake in a container terminal in Hamburg Port despite security concerns and protests from members of the governing coalition.
Berlin gave its go-ahead to the controversial deal in October but announced plans to revisit the decision last month. The review came shortly after the BSI, Germany’s national cybersecurity agency, classified the Tollerort container terminal as critical German infrastructure, meaning the acquisition could have faced heightened restrictions.
In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the German government said that Berlin was “sticking” to the decision from October without making any amendments, adding that the deal was in line with the BSI’s declaration of the terminal being vital national infrastructure.
According to the statement, the government had informed domestic port logistics firm HHLA and COSCO that the deal was compliant with a cabinet decision that limits the ownership of the Chinese state company in the terminal to less than 25%.
The compromise followed intense opposition to the deal from the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), who are coalition partners of Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD). The coalition had called the deal to be reconsidered as well as potentially for COSCO’s stake in the terminal to be reduced.
Critics argue that the deal, which marks the ninth acquisition of a stake in an EU port by the Chinese group, raises major security issues as it gives Beijing undue influence in the port infrastructure of the bloc.
At the same time, HHLA, which supports the deal, said that it would make Hamburg Port a preferred destination for COSCO, thus helping to secure jobs. The operator added that the agreement would strengthen Hamburg’s national and international importance as a logistics hub.
Nearly one-third of the goods shipped through the port’s terminals come from or go to China, which has been Germany’s largest trade partner for the past seven years. Last year, the value of trade between the states hit a record high of €298 billion ($320 billion).
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