Hungary seeks stronger EU-ASEAN economic ties

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 March) – Stronger economic ties between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will help the former regain its competitiveness, a Hungarian official said.

“Actually, we are absolutely interested in tighter cooperation between the EU and the ASEAN because we understand that this is a very dynamically developing region of the world and EU has been losing a lot of competitiveness recently,” Hungarian foreign and trade minister Peter Szijjato told reporters here on Monday.

Hungary is a member of the 28-country EU.

Szijjato said it has always been their interest to build a tighter and stronger cooperation with regions that are becoming “more and more competitive because the more we cooperate with competitive regions, the more competitiveness we will gain back than what we have lost.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte is chairing this year’s ASEAN, which is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Szijjato met with Duterte here on Monday and discussed economic cooperation and anti-terrorism.

“It gave me a pleasure that your President showed the openness and the willingness to enhance the bilateral cooperation on economy and trade. He was very open to enhance the trade volume between the two countries. He was satisfied with my agreement with your foreign minister (Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo) that the major areas should be agriculture, food industry, and water management,” he said.

He said the Hungarian government is even pushing for the inclusion of the Philippines in the free trade agreement of the EU with Asian countries like Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

“As we see, you have the number one growth rate in Asia now. You have a constantly growing population, you have a growing consumption, so I think it’s great opportunities for foreign companies to step on the market of the Philippines.

“But in the meantime, I think it will really be important and it would absolutely serve our interest if the EU and PH will come to an agreement about FTA because currently that would help a lot because it would ease the import and export of goods and services which would be very important, and create a better circumstances for investments,” he said.

Manalo and Szijjato signed a memorandum of understanding between the Foreign Service institute and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade at the Waterfront Insular Hotel.

Meanwhile, National Commission for Culture and the Arts chair Virgilio S. Almario and Hungarian Ambassador to the Philippines József Bencze signed the Cultural Cooperation Programme for 2017 and 2019. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)