“Thailand is the region’s largest economy, and for this reason it is in Hungary’s interests to increase cooperation with the Asian country”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared on Friday in Budapest following talks with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya.

At their joint press conference following the meeting, the Minister stressed: “Thailand is the region’s number one economic partner to Hungary, and a huge market where Hungarian enterprises have already achieved success to date, and we would like to further tighten economic relations between the two countries”.

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“Last year, Hungarian-Thai trade flow increased by 18 percent to exceed 700 million dollars, and Hungarian exports grew by 41 percent”, he explained. “The reinforcement of economic relations is being helped by EximBank’s 630-million-dollar credit line, in addition to which we have also convened a session of the Hungary-Thailand Joint Economic Committee”, he stated.

“The EU has lifted the restrictions relating to Thai airlines, thanks to which we have begun negotiations on the launching pf a direct air passenger route, in addition to which advanced talks are also underway on the participation of a Hungarian company in the establishment of Thailand’s new air traffic control system”, Mr. Szijjártó reminded the press. He also said that one of the main topics of the meeting was water, in view of the fact that Thailand has adopted a ten-year strategy for, amongst others modernising the populations drinking water supply, flood protection and the construction of wastewater treatment plants.

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“Hungarian companies can offer suitable technologies for this, meaning they could open up major market opportunities for us”, he pointed out. “Hungary is a believer in free trade, and the fewer the obstacles to international commercial trade, the better for the country and for Hungarian enterprises”, the Foreign Minister said. “Accordingly, Hungary is supporting the commencement of negotiations on a free trade agreement between Thailand and the EU at the earliest opportunity”, Mr. Szijjártó said.

Chatchai Sarikulya highlighted the fact that the main goal of his visit to Budapest was to get to know as much as possible about Hungarian water management, because the two countries could establish a mutually beneficial cooperation within this field. The Deputy Prime Minister said he believes Thailand can act as a kind of gateway into East Asia for Hungary, just as Thailand would also like to rely on Hungary as a gateway to Europe.

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Mr. Sarikulya thanked Hungary for providing scholarship places for 29 Thai students to attend Hungarian universities, because, as he explained, the knowledge they are gaining here enriches bilateral relations.

In reply to a question, Mr. Szijjártó spoke about the fact that Sweden’s Ambassador to Budapest has been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade because of the Swedish Minister for Social Affairs’ critical statements about Hungary. Annika Strandhäll wrote in a Tweet that “That is happening in Hungary is alarming”.

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“What Orbán wants now is for more ‘true’ Hungarian children to be born. The policy stinks of the 1930s, and as a right-wing populist he must obscure the consequences this policy is having on the independence for which women have fought”, she wrote.

The tone used by the Swedish minister is unacceptable. The Ambassador was told that Hungary regards the statement made by the Swedish minister as unacceptable, Mr. Szijjártó told the press.

“The diplomat took note of Hungary’ position and promised to pass it on”, the Minister said, confirming that the approaches of the Swedish and Hungarian governments are conflicting.

“Hungary is spending money on families, whereas Sweden is spending it on the migrants”, Mr. Szijjártó stated.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)