Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published by Kenneth Isom Barnes, Executive Editor of Food Mexico y Yo, on the Huffington Post. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Hungary and Mexico have a long and intriguing diplomatic history. What is current status of this relationship in both diplomatic and economic terms?
You’re right. We reestablished diplomatic ties with Mexico in 1974, since then relations got stronger and stronger in a manner, that nowadays we can say, that Mexico is Hungary’s number one Latin-American partner. But not only in terms of institutional contacts, but in commercial as well. The commercial turnover between the two countries reached 870 Million US Dollars in 2016, hugely surpassing the commerce with our second most important Latin American partner, Brazil (370 Million USD).
The Mexican NEMAK (member of the ALFA Group) operates a motor-assembly plant in Hungary and is a strategic partner of the Hungarian government, meanwhile my country is not only represented in Mexico by our embassy, but by the National Trading House of Hungary as well, which runs two regional representation offices in Mexico City. Hungarian multinational companies also have direct and broad business relations with the country: Gedeon Richter Mexico S.A. in the pharmaceutical sector, and Graphisoft Mexico with its architecture-related software have long traditions in Mexico, while Budapest Waterworks (which received the award for Gold Standard for Utility Performance during the latest Global Water Summit, organized in Madrid on 24th April 2017) opened its regional headquarter last year in Mexico City.
As far as institutional contacts are concerned, we had a plenty of work recently. This February, Mr. László Kövér, president of the National Assembly of Hungary payed an official visit to his counterpart in Mexico, and last summer it was Vice-Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, who was received by Mr. Osorio Chong, minister of the Government (amongst others). In 2015 the director generals of AMEXCID and PROMEXICO visited Hungary, so did Mrs. Gabriela Cuevas Barrón, President of the Commission of Foreign Affairs of the Senate of Mexico. On our behalf, Mr. Péter Szijjártó, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary had come to Mexico that very year to hold bilateral talks with (at that time) foreign minister Mr. Meade.
Does Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have an interest in developing deeper economic ties with Mexico? What are future opportunities in the trade relations with Mexico?
It is a strong determination of the Hungarian government to widen the scope of our international relations. Let it be political dialogue, cultural or commercial / economic cooperation. For this very reason, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary announced a new foreign policy strategy in 2015, called “Opening to the South”, which aims to foster cooperation with non-traditional partner countries, and embraces three regions with good growing perspectives: Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. Although we can’t say, that Mexico is a “non-traditional” partner of us, but still – because of its geographical situation – belongs to the group of countries of the “Opening to the South”.
Back to the question! Obviously, our goal is to deepen economic ties, foster mutual investments, and raise commercial turnover. After market investigation we see, that there are several issues of common interest and we can match Mexican needs with some Hungarian offer. Please don’t think I’d like to show up, but I think we’ve gained certain expertise in some areas, thanks to investments in investigation and technology. These areas are water treatment, a wide range of smart city technologies, e-governance, pharmaceutical and health industry, e-security, automotive sector, innovative architecture, agriculture technologies. We do hope that in this wide range of possibilities we can increase economic ties, and commercial turnover.
What are the perceptions, if any, of Mexico in the Hungarian government and business communities?
Mexico is the land of possibilities, whose success only depends on itself. Its qualities are amazing. Its natural resources, its geographical situation (access to both the Pacific and Atlantic, next to a huge and strong market – the USA), its very young population, its openness to the world, its widely-spoken language, …. all indicate, that Mexico can have a prosperous future. In political terms, it’s one of the most stable countries of Latin America, with democratic institutions for decades now. All these factors explain, why Mexico plays such an important role in the international fora and why Hungarian (government and business) actors look at Mexico as a reliable and stable partner.
Are there any actions you would like the Mexican government to take to build stronger economic ties with Hungary?
In the framework of the Agreement on Economic Cooperation, that exists between Mexico and Hungary, the two sides hold a so called „Joint Economic Commission” session every two year. These sessions are very effective instruments, treating several aspects of a wide-range bilateral agenda, and generally are accompanied by a business delegation. The next session is to be held this autumn in Budapest, but we still need to work hard with our Mexican colleagues to shape it a little bit better.
How important is NAFTA in the ongoing trade relationship between Hungary and Mexico?
NAFTA is a very important asset in global trade, not only for Hungary.
So many aspects of how NAFTA influenced Mexican economy were told lately. But I think, that it’s very important to see the impact on the Mexican society as well. Firstly, NAFTA had opened Mexico’s mind. It became a XXI-century country from one moment to another, applying the most sophisticated technologies (supply), and enjoying it too (demand). And secondly, NAFTA modernized the existing working methods in Mexico. Big Mexican international companies now work by organizational standards and working procedures, implemented from US-company patterns. These two elements are crucial to understand why NAFTA is so important for Mexico (apart from the direct commercial relations and investments), and for all global trade actors.
Do you have any predictions on how information technology industries may influence the current economic ties?
We’re living in the „era of information”. IT sector is growing continuously, requires active Investigation and Research activity and is highly associated with industry, commerce, service and entertainment sector. That is one of the reasons, why we, Hungary decided to focus on this issue (see above). There’s a huge demand, and it will grow, for sure.
By the way: four Hungarian IT companies participated in the Digital Revolution EXPO in Mexico City the end of April.
By Kenneth Isom Barnes
Executive Editor of Food Mexico y Yo