Hungary bats for EU-PH FTA

Published October 28, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Hungary joined calls among EU countries for the proposed EU-Philippines free trade agreement to come into fruition.

Minister Péter Szijjártó of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary said this during a recent bilateral meeting with DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez. The meeting was the first bilateral face-to-face ministerial meeting  with Lopez with a trading partner since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. 

DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (left), and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó pose for a photo. ( Photo credit: https://www.dti.gov.ph/)

The meeting was the fourth high-level exchange that has taken place between the DTI  and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) since the reopening of the Embassy of Hungary in Manila in March 2017.

It was also the second time Minister Szijjártó visited Secretary Lopez in Manila. The Minister first visited in 2017 when he and Secretary Lopez signed the Agreement on Economic Cooperation which established the Philippines-Hungary Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation. 

Citing his personal experience of the Philippines, Minister Szijjártó urged the European Union to continue the negotiations, highlighting that an FTA creates better opportunities and a freer environment for Hungarian companies to do business with the Philippines.

For his part, Lopez highlighted the importance of building on the first two rounds of FTA talks between the Philippines and the EU. Minister Szijjártó assured the Philippines that Hungary supports the continuation of the PH-EU FTA negotiations.

“Part of the DTI’s strategy to enhance our outbound trade and inbound investment with the EU is to increase our engagement with individual EU member states. Hungary has been one of our key allies in the EU in supporting our status as a GSP+ beneficiary and our FTA negotiations with the EU. It really shows that there is untapped potential for greater trade and investments that could only be realized through an FTA. Their visit to the Philippines despite the challenges presented by the pandemic is a testament to our strong bilateral relationship,” Lopez said. 

“The presence of Minister Szijjártó amidst this pandemic shows the importance of the country for Hungary both as a trading partner and as an investment destination,” said Lopez.

In the meeting, the officials also discussed the developments of the country’s GSP+ beneficiary status and noted PH’s comprehensive response on the GSP+ dialogue process last month. 

Noting the unilateral and temporary nature of GSP+, Lopez also agreed with the visiting Hungarian official for the FTA discussions to be pursued.

Hungary ranked 9th in the 2018 Economic Complexity Index (ECI), which measures a country’s productive knowledge by assessing the complexity and diversity of the products it exports. 

In 2019, total Philippine exports to the EU amounted to EUR7.6 billion, of which EUR197 million went to the Hungarian market. Out of this amount, EUR 8 million worth of Philippine products that entered the Hungarian market were exported through EU-GSP+. 

 
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