Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Hungary, Singapore prize national sovereignty

Cooperation between Hungary and Singapore is based on mutual respect and a common belief in the importance of national sovereignty as well as a rejection of outside interference, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Singapore on Wednesday.

Singapore is Hungary’s most significant trading partner in the region, a ministry statement citing Szijjarto said, adding that relations “are especially friendly”.

Both countries can be confident that their own citizens “are capable of deciding wisely what kind of future they want for the country”, he said, adding that they want a return to mutual respect in international politics, while they also often cooperate in international organisations.

Just as in Singapore, political stability in Hungary “is exceptional” and also “unique” in the European context, he said, adding that Singaporean businesses’ appreciation of this is reflected by their growing investments in Hungary.

The minister noted that he met the leaders of Singapore’s biggest companies investing in Hungary, all of whom expressed satisfaction with the operating environment, low taxes and skilled workforce, and they planned new investments, especially in the electric car industry.

The automotive industry in Hungary is a crux point for investments from the East and West, with Western electric car manufacturers and Eastern battery producers converging on the country.

Bilateral trade hit 1 billion US dollars last year, he noted, adding that trade was on the upswing, with a 46 percent increase recorded so far this year.

Hungarian companies have invested 350 million US dollars in city state, and Singaporean companies employ more than 7,000 people in Hungary, he noted.

At the biggest food industry fair in South-East Asia, a deal was reached on the voluminous export of Hungarian mangalitsa and pigeon meat to Singapore, he said. Singapore, he added, presents a big opportunity for Hungarian agriculture and its food industry.

Last year, the value of Hungarian food exports exceeded 6 million US dollars, of which meat produce exports amounted to more than 1 million US dollars.

Also, tourism ties between the two countries are also improving, Szijjarto said, noting a four-fold increase in Singaporean visitors to Hungary so far this year compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, he said there is mutual interest in developing space industry cooperation in the production of satellites and their placement in orbit, as well as sharing the data obtained from them, the minister said.

Hungarian investments in Singapore exceed USD 350 million

Despite the vast geographical distance between the two countries, everything is in place to further develop economic cooperation between Hungary and Singapore, Szijjarto said. Addressing a Hungarian-Singaporean IT business forum, Szijjarto said the government will provide all the support needed to further boost bilateral economic cooperation, expressing hope that the successes in economic ties would encourage further cooperation and result in mutually beneficial business agreements.

Bilateral trade turnover between the two countries reached one billion US dollars last year, and has increased by 46 percent so far this year, Szijjarto said, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Hungarian businesses have invested 350 billion dollars in the city state, while Singaporean companies employ more than 7,000 people in Hungary, he said.

As a country of 10 million without a coastline or an abundance of natural resources, Hungary relies on the performance of its people, Szijjarto said, underscoring the importance of the ongoing shift to a knowledge-based economy.

At the beginning of the previous decade, Hungary’s government focused on large-scale industrialisation with a view to creating jobs, he said. But now it is shifting its focus to quality over quantity, to increasing value added and the economy’s general level of technological development, he added.

He praised the success of the government’s policy of opening up to the East, emphasising that while politically Hungary’s place was in NATO and the European Union, the government had recognised in time that Eastern countries were set to play an increasingly important role.

Despite difficult circumstances, Hungary in recent years has seen record investments, the minister said.

He attributed this to Hungary’s “exceptional” political stability in the European context. Hungary’s central location on the continent is also advantageous, as is the fact that it has the lowest taxes. But the country’s biggest advantage, he said, was its skilled workforce, which he said was set to become even more attractive to foreign businesses thanks to the reorganisation of the higher education system and the introduction of dual vocational training.

Fully 63 percent of the Hungarian industry is considered high-tech according to international standards, Szijjarto said, welcoming that spending on research and development has increased to 1.6 percent of GDP from less than 1 percent in ten years, while the number of R+D jobs has increased by 97 percent.

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