Berlin is nearing an agreement to allow a Chinese firm to take a smaller than planned stake in a Hamburg container terminal to overcome Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s opposition to an all-out ban, a government source said Tuesday.
Chinese shipping giant Cosco had sought a 35-percent stake and the deal would have automatically gone ahead despite opposition from several German ministries if an “emergency solution” was not found this week, the source told AFP.
Under the proposed compromise, the government would greenlight a 24.9-percent sale, a big enough reduction to deprive China’s state-owned Cosco of any voting rights.
The fate of the Tollerort terminal at Hamburg’s port, one of Europe’s busiest, has sparked fierce debate in Germany.
Badly burnt by its over-reliance on Russian energy, Germany has become increasingly wary of allowing foreign countries to gain hold of critical infrastructure.
Six German ministries, including the economy, defence and foreign offices, wanted to veto the Cosco deal, while former Hamburg mayor Scholz supported the sale.
“The emergency solution would prevent a strategic participation and reduce it to a purely financial participation,” the source said.
“Of course, this does not solve the actual concerns,” the source said, adding that the six ministries would still have preferred an outright ban.
Scholz is due to visit China in early November, the first European Union leader to make the trip since November 2019.
Despite growing concerns in Europe about economic dependence on China, Scholz has repeatedly insisted that Germany should maintain strong business relations with the Asian giant.
“We do not have to decouple ourselves from some countries, we must continue doing business with individual countries — and I will say explicitly, also with China,” he said recently.