Szijjártó: EU Must Seek Closer Cooperation With Southeast Asia
The European Union must seek closer cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Friday. Szijjártó is attending a meeting of EU and ASEAN foreign ministers in Bangkok where the representatives of 28 EU countries and 10 Southeast Asian countries met. The minister highlighted the importance of restarting free trade talks.
Talks with Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore are in different stages and it is in Hungary’s interest that they are concluded as soon as possible, he added. This will improve Hungarian companies’ opportunities to enter the market, mainly in the areas of water management, agricultural technologies and infocommunications technologies, he said.
Hungarian companies currently generate total trade turnover of 2 billion dollars with ASEAN countries and in order to improve these companies’ positions, Eximbank has opened a 1.5 billion dollar credit line for the ten ASEAN countries, Szijjártó said. In addition, 400 scholarships have been provided for students from ASEAN countries to study at Hungarian universities and talks will start soon to establish direct flight connections between Hungary and the region as part of a broader EUASEAN agreement.
Commenting on security issues, Szijjártó said both regions are affected by the fight against Islamic extremists and an agreement has been signed on security cooperation. The minister also held bilateral talks with counterparts from Malaysia, Singapore, Laos and Myanmar on the sidelines of the meeting.
He told MTI that Hungary and Singapore were linked by the strong presence of “startups based on innovative research and development” and Singapore considers Hungary a main partner for cooperation in this field. An 820 million dollar credit line was opened this year to help Hungarian companies involved in R&D representing high added value become successful on the Singapore market, he added.
He said that new export licences have been issued for meat products, allowing Hungarian premium goods to be sold on the market in Singapore. Szijjártó said he shared the view of his counterpart that cooperation should not involve interfering in each other’s domestic affairs.
Hungary supports the signing of a partnership agreement between Singapore and the EU as soon as possible, he added. Commenting on his talks with his Malaysian counterpart, Szijjártó said it was agreed that an economic cooperation agreement would be signed and 40 students would be granted Hungarian scholarships.
They also agreed to amend air transport regulations in order to enable the Malaysian airlines to start selling tickets to Hungary.
Szijjártó said he had agreed with his counterpart from Laos to launch a 30 million dollar tied aid scheme under which Hungarian companies would develop a food safety system for the Asian country.
Additionally, Hungary will receive agricultural university students from Laos, he said. Commenting on talks with his counterpart from Myanmar, he said starting from next September, 30 students will start their studies on scholarship in Hungary.
A Hungarian company has received the opportunity to develop a mobile payment network in Myanmar, as a result of which Hungary’s presence in the country’s infocommunications market will be significant in the upcoming period, Szijjártó said.
Republished with permission of Hungary Matters, MTI’s daily newsletter.