Within Europe, the hope of cooperation between East and West has evaporated for the time being due to the war in Ukraine, but on a global level this cooperation is ever more important, Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian foreign minister, said at the Indo-Pacific Forum held in Prague on Monday.
Szijjártó called for talks with countries in South-East Asia on prospective partnership and cooperation agreements to accelerate, arguing that intensifying foreign relations would strengthen the EU. Striking free trade agreements with Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia would be key in that regard.
A rethink of East-West supply chains for the European economy was vitally important, Szijjártó said, adding that
“failure to improve economic cooperation between Europe and the Indo-Pacific region would deprive both sides of significant growth potential, which is why it is the task of governments and institutions in Brussels to strengthen active relations to their mutual benefit.”
Szijjártó said Hungary’s economy is the tenth most open globally, noting that exports account for over 85 percent of its economic output.
“Our exports last year grew by 25 percent and our trade with the Indo-Pacific region exceeded a record 13.5 billion dollars,”
he said, adding that Hungary was performing well in cooperation with South-East Asia, and the region has been the largest investor in the country for the past three consecutive years.
“So I don’t think it’s surprising that Hungary is urging pragmatic cooperation between Europe and Asia’s south-eastern region with mutual benefits in mind,”
“We in Hungary have done much to improve the country’s competitiveness,”
Szijjártó said, adding that it was now the EU and the European Commission’s turn to dismantle trade barriers still standing in the way of Europe developing trade relations with some of the world’s fastest growing regions.
Speaking about cooperation with China, Szijjártó said:
“It must be admitted that today, irrespective of political ideology and the disputes they have created, the European economy cannot, could not, properly function without Chinese supplies, and it must be conceded too that Chinese investments have greatly contributed to Europe’s economic development and modernisation,”
the foreign minister said. He called for talks on an EU-China investment protection and promotion agreement to be concluded as soon as possible.