Hungary supports PH-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations
Hungary supports PH-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations
Hungary supports PH-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations
by Karen Ow-Yong13 June 2024
Photo courtesy of Karen A. Ow-Yong / DZRH

MANILA – Hungary expressed its support for the resumption of the Philippines-European Union (PH-EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations and will be concentrating on “accelerating” the talks so that both countries, as well as the EU, will soon see “the many advantages brought forward by free trade.”

This was revealed by Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjárto during a joint press briefing in Makati City with Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo on Thursday.

“Hungary is on the side of free trade. We see the many advantages brought forward by free trade, especially for those countries like Hungary, which are having open economies one of the most 10 most open roads in the world, a country where export over GDP ratio has reached 85%,” Minister Szijjárto said.

“So during the Hungarian presidency, instead of introducing customs, we will concentrate on accelerating the free trade negotiations of the European Union with Asia and especially with the Southeast Asian countries, like the free trade negotiations between the Philippines and the European Union,” he added.


The EU and the Philippines launched the negotiations for an FTA in 2015, while the last negotiating round took place in 2017, after which negotiations have since been on hold, the European Commission stated on their website.

In its press release dated March 18, 2024, the European Commission announced the resumption of negotiations for “an ambitious, modern and balanced free trade agreement – with sustainability at its core.”

According to the EU, the Philippines is attractive to European companies due to it “major reserves of critical raw materials, including nickel, copper and chromite, which are vital for the manufacture of green technologies.”

Combined with the Philippines' renewed efforts to harvest its renewable energy potential and recent liberalisation for foreign investors in the sector, the Philippines is an important partner in the green transition, the statement added.


The European Commission stressed that the EU aims for a comprehensive FTA with the Philippines that includes ambitious market access for goods, services, investment and government procurement; the removal of obstacles to digital trade and trade in energy and raw materials, thereby supporting the digital and green transitions; swift and effective sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) procedures; sustainable food systems (SFS); the protection of intellectual property rights including Geographical Indications (GIs) and robust and enforceable disciplines on trade and sustainable development (TSD) – in line with the Commission's TSD review Communication of June 2022, supporting high levels of protection for workers' rights, the environment, and the achievement of ambitious climate goals.

For his part, Secretary Manalo expressed his appreciation for Hungary’s support and is looking forward to “speeding up negotiations on the PH-FTA”.

He adds, “We're looking forward to hopefully speeding up our negotiations on the Philippine FTA and we appreciate very much the support that the minister has indicated, especially during Hungary's chairmanship.

“We think it's very important for many reasons, not only to increase the economic cooperation between the Philippines and new EU but to provide also greater forms of economic security and resilience, not only for the Philippines, but also for the EU and we hope to build on this cooperation especially in the face of today's geopolitical realities,” Manalo emphasized.


Migrant Workers Office to open in Budapest

Manalo also mentioned the opening of a Migrant Workers Office in Budapest to facilitate the provision of assistance to Filipinos based in Hungary.

“They will be directly now involved with improving the conditions there and also maybe encouraging further Filipino labour there in Hungary,” Manalo told reporters.


According to Manalo, there are approximately 16,000 Filipino workers in Hungary, and thanked the minister for the appreciation of Hungarians given to them, as well as the positive contributions of Filipinos to Hungarian society.

PH, Hungary to explore cooperation in different sectors

Meanwhile, Minister Szijjárto mentioned that Hungary is interested in investing in water management, in order to make sure that everyone has access to potable water.


Hungary is ready to give a credit program for investing in water management with a sum of USD33 million, he added.

Szijjárto also said that Hungary is ready “to prepare and introduce the Philippines to the nuclear industry,” education, tourism and to fight against illegal migraton.

Minister Szijjárto is in the Philippines to embark on an official visit, as part of his official tour of Southeast Asia.

According to the DFA, this is his third trip to Manila in his current role.


He previously visited the country in 2017, meeting then-acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo; and in 2020, with then-Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.

The bilateral meeting between Szijjártó and Manalo serves as the 8th iteration of the Philippines-Hungary Political Consultations. The 7th round of Political Consultations was held in Budapest in 2022, the DFA added.

The visit also highlights the ongoing celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Hungary, the DFA stated.

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