The economic cooperation between Hungary and the United States plays an extremely important role in the continuous growth of Hungary’s economic performance, Péter Szijjártó emphasised at the opening ceremony of the new wheel manufacturing plant of Alcoa Hungary in Székesfehérvár.

Péter Szijjártó underlined that Hungary’s trade turnover in the first ten months of last year grew by more than 12 percent; Hungarian exports to the United States grew by 24.6 percent in the same period. Currently, 1,750 U.S. companies operate in Hungary, employing approximately 90,000 employees, he added.

He was of the opinion that with Alcoa’s new investment, a new chapter has opened in the success story of the Hungarian-U.S. economic cooperation. He noted that 40 out of the 50 largest U.S. companies are pursuing some kind of activity here, this is the reason why the government signed the greatest number of strategic partnership agreements (ten) with U.S. companies.

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According to Péter Szijjártó, 2015 will be the year of new challenges; rapid changes are taking place in world politics, world economy and also in terms of security, and Hungary’s aim is to be the winner of these changes. Success, he said, requires a new strategy, as the countries attracting the most investments and creating the most jobs will be the winners. He reminded that the government had taken several steps to support this in recent years, such as the transformation of the tax system, education and vocational training, and the reorganisation of the labour regulations.

The minister said that the results speak for themselves, as Hungary ended up in a tie for second place in terms of economic growth in the EU, and unemployment also decreased significantly. The country achieved its highest employment level in 22 years: 4.2 million people work and pay taxes while there were only 1.8 million taxpayers in 2010. The Hungarian model works, and the government proved that “a former economic dogma belongs to the past” since it is possible to produce economic growth and create jobs while decreasing national debt and maintaining a disciplined budgetary policy, he said.

Talking about the Alcoa investment Péter Szijjártó said that the Hungarian government granted HUF one billion for the development. He added that the investment created new jobs, and Alcoa now directly employs over two thousand people. He appreciated that the U.S. company has increased the proportion of Hungarian suppliers from 75-78 percent since the signing of the strategic partnership agreement with the government.  Alcoa’s long-term commitment is also demonstrated by the intention to increase their annual wheel disc production by 214,000 pieces in the recently opened Dura-Bright disc wheel manufacturing plant by 2020, he said.

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U.S. Ambassador Colleen Bell emphasised that the establishment of the manufacturing plant proves the existence of strong commercial relations between the United States and Hungary. The ambassador reminded that the company has existed for 125 years. This is not very long in terms of  Hungary’s 1000-year old history, but for the United States, a 125-year period covers half of its existence, she added.

Colleen Bell pointed out that production and the manufacturing of quality products is not enough in itself because companies are obliged to pay attention to environmental protection and the safety of workplaces, and they are responsible for the community in which they operate. Alcoa is an outstanding company also in this respect as it provided more than USD 90 million to approximately 400 civil society organisations for charity purposes since the beginning of its operations in Hungary, she said. The ambassador emphasised that both U.S. investors and the Hungarian partner is interested in the mutually fruitful cooperation. They have to work together for what they would not be able to achieve alone, she said.

Colleen Bell said that as a U.S. ambassador she will work hard in the future to create new opportunities for both U.S. and Hungarian businesses and to further improve their cooperation. Mayor András Cser-Palkovics (Fidesz party) thanked Colleen Bell that she paid her first official visit to the countryside to Székesfehérvár, a town where excellent alliance can be found between the municipality, the country and a U.S. company, he said.

He announced that the wheels of buses in the city will be gradually replaced by Alcoa products in agreement with the company operating the local community transport. Alcoa’s retiring CEO Béla Forgó emphasised that with the capital intensive Alcoa’s involvement in Hungary and the efficiency of Hungarian work force, they were doomed to success.

His successor, István Katus said that Alcoa-Köfém is steadily one of the 50 largest companies in Hungary; they had a revenue of HUF 200 billion last year, 90 percent of which comprised of export revenues. Branch manager Attila Török said that they started to manufacture the Dura-Bright products slightly more than six years ago and the second plant was primarily needed because of the increasing European sales. He added that geothermic energy will be used for both the manufacturing plant and the technology.

According to the company’s press material the investment doubles the production capacity of Dura-Bright EVO surface-treated wheels, which are ten times more corrosive resistant. The sales of aluminium wheels are expected to increase from 30 percent of the total market in 2010 to 50 percent by 2018. 35 new jobs were created as a result of the investment.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)