Germany is reassessing its decision to allow COSCO Shipping Ports to acquire a stake in one of Hamburg Hafen und Logistik AG’s (HHLA) three terminals at the Port of Hamburg.
Reported by Reuters, a spokesperson for the German Economy Ministry said that the Tollerort terminal was classified as critical infrastructure this year, threatening to relaunch a political row over the risks of Chinese investment in the German economy.
The ministry spokesperson said that it was now being determined whether and under what conditions COSCO would be allowed to take a stake in the terminal.
In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Germany to remain “objective and rational” in its review.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said: “We hope the German side will refrain from politicising commercial cooperation, making it something about ideology or security, and setting barriers to such cooperation.”
READ: China fires back at US interference in COSCO – HHLA CTT deal
The approval for CSP to take a 24.9 per cent stake in HHLA’s terminal was initially granted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in October 2022, despite strong opposition from within the governing coalition. However, Scholz’s stance on the issue has not changed, according to a spokesperson.
In an email statement to Reuters, HHLA confirmed that its Hamburg container terminals had been classified as critical infrastructure at the start of the year, following the creation of a new category for loading facilities in sea and inland ports with cargo volume of 3.27 million tonnes per year.
An HHLA spokesperson stated that the company had already been considered critical infrastructure under pre-existing criteria, which meant the Federal Office for Information Security’s assessment had led to “no significant change” for the firm.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is scheduled to visit China from 13 to 15 April.
China’s investment in German infrastructure has long been a point of political contention, with critics raising concerns over the country’s rising influence and potential national security risks.
Just last month, the U.S. Department of Defense raised concerns about the presence of Chinese cranes in US ports, including those used by the military, as a potential tool for espionage.