Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Hungary, Iran have interest in cooperation in non-sanctioned sectors

Hungary and Iran both have an interest in developing economic cooperation in sectors not subject to sanctions, such as the pharmaceutical industry, the health and food industries and water management, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Tehran on Thursday.

The broad international sanctions imposed on Iran do not make economic and trade cooperation easy, Szijjarto told a Hungarian-Iranian business forum.

“What we think about sanctions in general is irrelevant right now, and is a topic for another speech, but the point is that building economic cooperation isn’t easy,” Szijjarto said. “But ‘not easy’ doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.”

The minister said there were a number of areas that are not subject to sanctions, such as the pharmaceutical industry, the health and food industries and water management. He added that it was a “happy coincidence” that these are among the most-developed sectors of the Hungarian economy and global technological leaders.

Szijjarto said Hungary is the world’s 20th most significant pharma exporter, and that Iran has been using Hungarian-made X-ray machines for over 15 years.

The minister noted that he was accompanied on his visit by representatives of the most high-tech Hungarian agricultural firms which were technological leaders in seed production, animal and plant health as well as premix production.

“We have the food industry companies here with us . representing sectors ranging from milk processing to energy drinks,” he said. He added that water management businesses exporting modern technologies to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Western Balkans were also present.

Szijjarto asked the company executives to take advantage of the opportunity to boost cooperation between Hungary and Iran in the areas not affected by sanctions.

Meanwhile, the minister touched on recent crises such as the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the Middle East conflict, emphasising that the world had entered “an era of dangers” and a new global economic order was emerging.

Hungary, given its geographical location and economic structure, has a vested interest in the global economy “operating under open, peaceful and fair conditions”.

Szijjarto said Hungary was concerned about a potential re-emergence of geopolitical blocs in the world, noting that the country had already lost out on such a divide in the past.

“That’s why we’d much rather like the coming period to be one of connectivity,” he said, adding that Hungary saw cooperation between East and West as an opportunity, rather than a threat or a risk.

Speaking after a meeting of the Hungarian-Iranian Joint Economic Committee later in the day, Szijjarto said a new bilateral agriculture cooperation agreement would present new trade opportunities in agriculture and the food industry.

Trade turnover between Hungary and Iran exceeded 50 million dollars in 2022 despite the serious security and economic challenges, and reached a similar level last year, too, Szijjarto told a press conference, according to a ministry statement.

At a joint press conference with Iran’s finance minister, Szijjarto welcomed that the investment protection agreement between the two countries has entered into effect, and said Hungary’s and Iran’s tax and customs authorities will work together to eliminate barriers to bilateral business cooperation.

He said an agriculture cooperation agreement signed by the two countries could present new trade opportunities in agriculture and the food industry and boost the presence of advanced Hungarian farming technologies and food products on the Iranian market.

Hungarian pharmaceutical and medical technology products, which have already enjoyed considerable recognition in Iran, are expected to expand their presence on the market in the future, the minister said.

As regards water management cooperation, Szijjarto said Hungary and Iran are in talks on the export of more Hungarian water management technologies to the Middle Eastern country.

Hungary and Iran will also uphold an agreement under which they issue 5,500 transport permits a year to each other’s companies, he said.

He noted that Hungary offers scholarships to 100 Iranian university students each year, adding that currently there are more than 2,000 Iranians studying in Hungary.

There are six Hungarian universities cooperating with nine Iranian institutions, he said, adding that the next rectors’ conference is set to be held soon.

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