“The Hungarian Government believes that Hungarian-Chinese trade flow would also receive further momentum if China were to be afforded market economy status by the European Union, because this would also mean more market opportunities for Hungarian companies”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at the meeting of Chinese and Central-Eastern European (CEEC) Ministers of Trade in Ningbo, eastern China.

The Minister told a correspondent from Hungarian news agency MTI: “We know that there is great debate on the subject within the European Union, but in our view, in the interests of the further development of Chinese-European economic cooperation and for trade in the direction of China to become increasingly liberal and free of restrictions, the right thing to do is for the Hungarian Government to strongly support the provision of market economy status to China”.

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In Mr. Szijjártó opinion, there is a realistic chance that Hungarian exports to China could stabilise at the level of 2 billion US Dollars-a-year. The five contracts signed by Hungarian enterprises on Thursday within the fields of light industry, wine exports, meat exports, electronics and IT, represent a market opportunity worth some 10 billion Dollars.

At the meeting of ministers, Mr. Szijjártó said that Hungary has always been a supporter of the 16+1 cooperation format and “in future this will be one of the cornerstones of our Asian foreign policy in view of the fact that Hungary is clearly profiting from this”.

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“China’s interest in the region is visibly increasing and it is also in our interests for the entire region to be an attractive investment destination for China because this also increases Hungary’s role”, the Minister said.

At the same time, Mr. Szijjártó felt it important to note that the parties wish to increase the role played by small and medium-sized enterprises within the framework of Hungarian-Chinese cooperation, because “these react most flexibly to changing Chinese market and consumer demand and are also best suited to meeting ever increasing requirements”. Companies that produce premium quality goods will be at a particular advantage, he added.

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Infrastructure development projects will continue to play a determining role in bilateral relations, the Minister said. Peking also regards the Budapest-Belgrade railway modernisation project as the flagship of cooperation between China and Central-Eastern Europe, he added.

In reply to a question from the MTI correspondent on whether there were any delays in the project’s development and what objection the EU raised which required the formulation of a different legal solution, Mr Szijjártó explicitly stated that preparations are underway and there are now no obstructions from Brussels preventing the realisation of the project.

“In the case of all such projects in which an EU Member State, a prospective Member State or China is involved it is especially important that the contract should conform to EU regulations in every respect. We fully respect this principle”, the Minister said, adding that the parties had succeeded in developing a solution that is in line with European Union public procurement regulations.

Mr. Szijjártó indicated that they had come to an agreement with the Chinese party on setting up a joint venture to manage the project, and the Hungary’s Ministry for National Economy is in continuing negotiations regarding the financial and loan conditions.

On the final day of the two-day meeting and expo, Mr. Szijjártó met with China’s international trade Representative Mr. Zhong Shan and ceremoniously opened the Hungarian pavilion in the exhibition centre with his Chinese counterpart. 40 Hungarian companies will be presenting themselves to some 20 thousand visitors at the CEEC Expo Ningbo, at which Hungary is the guest of honour.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)