Hungary must make itself significant in the United States, László Szabó, Hungary’s new ambassador in Washington, said in an interview on Friday.
Speaking to MTI a couple of days after taking his posting, Szabó noted that he had worked for several years as HR director at American pharmaceuticals giant Ely Lilly in the state of Indiana. In the past three years, as parliamentary state secretary for foreign affairs and trade, he said that he had regularly negotiated and concluded agreements with the most important American players in business and the economy.
Based on the foundations of a successful Hungary-US economic relationship, the country “can and must improve the quality of political ties”, he said.
“Hungarian-American bilateral economic ties are developing very well and vigorously, and whereas annual trade turnover is now worth more than 5 billion dollars, and trade between the two countries has grown by 5 percent this year, there are still possibilities to explore and exploit,” he said, adding that progress was being made but political ties had to be strengthened with determination.
Szabó said that under the eight-year administration of Barack Obama “there were very serious ideological clashes” between Washington and Budapest, and “an agitated political situation emerged between the two countries”. Now, however, with the new administration of Donald Trump, “this seems to have altered significantly”.
“The Trump administration is not afraid to say what it thinks, and it is very refreshing that a new spirit has appeared in bilateral ties. The Hungarian government, since 2010, has represented Hungarian national interests very openly, and it is good to see that America similarly declares that, for Americans, America comes first, just as for Hungarians, Hungary has primacy. We don’t have to be ashamed about that in front of one another,” the ambassador said.
Szabó said real change in the relationship would require time. “Several tens of thousands of people work in the state department, a great deal of whom are holdovers from the Obama administration, but we trust that this will change and we’ll have more and more friends in the state department too,” he said. “There are people who understand that improving Hungary-US and V4-US relations are indeed a value for America as well,” he added.
“We have to make ourselves relevant as far as America is concerned, and we have to make clear why good relations with Hungary are important,” Szabó said. “We have also to make clear that as current president of the Visegrad Group, we are really paying attention to US energy policy and how Washington can get its liquefied natural gas into Europe,” he said. “We must get to the point that they see us as a potential market.” Hungary, he said, trusts that the planned LNG terminal will be built on the Croatian coast and a gas interconnector will similarly come to pass not only between Romania and Hungary but between Croatia and Hungary too.
In this way, Hungary will be able to access energy from American sources “and we won’t depend so much on Russian gas”. The ambassador added that Russian gas would be important for Hungary in the long term, but if there was a competitor and healthy price competition, then this would certainly be useful for Hungarians. “Very useful” discussions were held with the state department in the past few days on this subject, he added.
Szabó welcomed President Trump’s recent declaration in Warsaw that US foreign policy would pay greater attention to Central Europe than in the past.
On issues of security cooperation, the ambassador said: “We are very serious partners and Hungary has shown that.” He noted that Hungary forms part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State terrorist organisation and it also takes part in important peace-keeping operations as well as NATO exercises.
H.E. DR. LÁSZLÓ SZABÓ
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AND TRADE, HUNGARY
Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, Washington, D.C.
from July 28, 2017
Deputy Minister, Parliamentary State Secretary
from October 2014
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade
from June 2014
TEVA HUNGARY LTD., BUDAPEST
Chief Executive Officer
ELI LILLY AND COMPANY, INDIANAPOLIS, IN.
Vice President, China HR
Senior Director, Human Resources, Global Medical, Regulatory, and Patient Safety
General Manager Hungary
Director, Human Resources, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East
Country Manager, New Zealand and the South-Pacific
HR Associate and Team-leader, United Kingdom
Sales Manager, Wales, UK
Marketing Coordinator and Product Manager, Hungary
Medical Sales Representatives
MEDICAL UNIVERSITY, DEBRECEN, HUNGARY (DEOEC)
General Physician, 1st Department of Surgery
EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATIONS
MEDICAL UNIVERSITY, DEBRECEN, HUNGARY (DOTE)
Doctor of Medicine, Debrecent Medical University, Hungary
Hungary Chamber of Physicians
1990 to present
Member of the Board of Directors of RMI (Researched Medicines Industry Association) in New Zealand
Corporate Leadership Council (CLC)
2001 to present
Co-Chair of the American Working Group of PhRMA in Hungary
Member of the Board, Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AIPM)
Member of the Board, Association of Hungarian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers
2010 to present
Member of the Economic Committee, University of Debrecen
2011 to present
Member of the Investors’ Committee of AmCham
2011 to present
Member of the Innovation Advisory Board at the Ministry for National Economy
Summa Artium Hungary Award, Maecenas of Debrecen Award
Gold Cross of Merit Hungary
To view a PDF version of the curriculum vitae of Ambassador Dr. László Szabó, please click HERE.