PH gets Hungary’s support for EU free trade talks

The Hungarian government has assured the Philippines of support to continue negotiations for a free trade deal between the Philippines and the European Union (EU), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Tuesday.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó led a high-level bilateral meeting here last Oct. 15.

This was the first face-to-face bilateral meeting of the DTI chief amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“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,” Lopez said.

Szijjártó supports the continuation of Philippines-EU free trade agreement (FTA) talks to create better opportunities and a liberalized business environment for Hungarian firms wanting to do business in the Philippines.

The Philippines and EU had two rounds of FTA negotiations –in Brussels in 2016 and in Cebu in 2017.

“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+ (Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus) beneficiary and our FTA negotiations with the EU,” Lopez said.

Economic cooperation

Among the discussions in the recent meeting include strengthening trade and investments in manufacturing, water treatment and management, agriculture and food economy, food safety, health, and transportation.

The trade officials were also looking into enhancing cooperation in Covid-19 response.

“Since we are positioning the country as a PPE (personal protective equipment) manufacturing hub, the implementation of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the DTI-Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) and the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency (HEPA) and the MOU on investment cooperation between the Board of Investments and the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), which we signed last year, will be useful in our fight against Covid-19 and in building back better. We are looking forward in discussing this further when we convene the JCEC,” DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said.

The Philippines and Hungary had the inaugural Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) last year.

During the recent meeting, both sides also agreed to hold the next round of JCEC meeting before the end of the year.

Rodolfo said the Philippines aims to tap Hungarian technology for water treatment and management to rehabilitate key bodies of water like the Laguna de Bay.

“The Philippines and Hungary face the same challenge in terms of access to clean water resources. From their part, they were able to develop the technology to treat one of the longest rivers in Europe, the Danube. This water cooperation is just the first step. We want to tap their expertise to facilitate technology and knowledge transfer and build confidence so that these Hungarian water companies will invest here in the Philippines,” he said.

Rodolfo further said Hungarian firms are also looking into expanding their market, and the Philippines would be a good destination for their investments.

“They have the technology, while we have the resources and the geography. We need to harness this complementation,” he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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