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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Vietnam–Hungary business forum

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, Deputy Prime Minister,

I am glad that this forum has come about. You have heard the figures – both the investment and trade figures. Our host was courteous, and didn’t mention the adjective that I shall now use to describe these figures: modest. The volume of trade and investment relations between our two countries is modest, but nevertheless here we have this large delegation from Hungary. Why have we come? After all, we have higher-volume trade and investment relations with other countries. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here because eighteen months to two years ago Hungary made a strategic decision, which in essence selected the country that could be a strategic partner for Hungary in this region: in the Southeast Asian region. We Hungarians can also clearly see that a realignment in the global economy is taking place, the likes of which few of us have ever seen. The focus of the global economy is shifting from a westerly direction to an easterly direction. Those with a knowledge of economic history will know that in the 1520s, forty per cent of the world’s total gross product was generated by India and China – but the Southeast Asian region was not included in this figure. What we are seeing now is a return to this previous state of affairs in the global economy. We Europeans and Westerners must learn to live with the fact that in the decades to come this process will continue to gain strength, and the centre of gravity of the world’s production and trade will move from the West in an easterly direction. We have analysed this process, and have searched for a country with which we can establish a strategic partnership in Southeast Asia. We are not as large as the British, the Americans, the Germans or the French – who have the strength and economic capacity to establish similar relations with every country in a region. Hungary is a country of ten million people, and our capabilities and opportunities are fewer and more restricted, so we need to concentrate our efforts. This is why the Hungarian government was right to decide on Vietnam as a target area within the Southeast Asian region, and as a possible strategic partner. This is why we are here today. And we must also not overlook the significance of the deep impression made on us by the Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam on her visit to Budapest in the spring, when she emphasised Vietnam’s openness and convinced us that this could be a good governmental policy.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The many contradictory and confusing news items related to Europe – which I assume are also seen in this part of the world – are all due to the fact that Europe and the West must also adapt to this new global situation. This is not an easy process. It is also not easy from a military perspective, since the military and security foundations are also provided for by economic performance. Neither is it easy from an economic and trade policy perspective, nor from an emotional perspective, in view of the fact that the West must now accept that – as they say in Budapest – in the decades ahead it will not be the one which is blowing the trade winds. Accepting and adapting to this situation will be a major challenge.

Central Europe, where we have arrived from, is a region of Europe that is making good progress in relation to this process of adaptation, and we are advancing more rapidly than other parts of the European continent. Accordingly, the countries of Central Europe are indeed developing more rapidly and establishing broader relations with the eastern half of the world – including Southeast Asia – than many of the traditionally more influential large European countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungary made a sound decision when it chose to deepen relations with Vietnam. We had several reasons for doing this. First of all, our two countries have a history of economic and political cooperation stretching back sixty-seven years. We were one of the first to recognise Vietnam, and to this day this gesture – this earlier diplomatic decision – is still one of the pillars of Vietnamese–Hungarian relations. This is something that we must preserve. In addition, there are three thousand people here in Vietnam who received their university degrees in Hungary, and who speak Hungarian to some extent. They know us, they have experienced cooperation with Hungarians, they have special knowledge of how Hungarian businesspeople think, and accordingly they do not see us as strangers, but welcome us as friends. Furthermore, in Hungary there is a Vietnamese community of several thousand people, generally involved in small and medium-sized businesses. They are law-abiding Hungarian citizens, and are generally former students who stayed in our country and became integrated, marrying into Hungarian families. They have made our country their home, and have become valued and respected members of Hungarian society. Accordingly this, too, is a good experience for us.

In addition, in the world today it is fashionable to prepare long-term analyses of a region’s development, and all of the studies we are aware of indicate that over the next thirty years Vietnam could be the global economy’s most balanced and most rapidly developing country. We don’t know if this will be the case, but rational assessments lead one to believe so, and therefore Hungary is not only counting on Vietnam in the coming two or three years, but also over a twenty- to thirty-year timescale. Similar studies also have promising things to say about Central Europe. The principal formation in Central Europe is the group of countries known as the Visegrád Four: Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. These countries coordinate their policies, and this work is currently being overseen by Hungary. This group of countries will achieve the most rapid growth in Central Europe, so if anyone from the Vietnamese economy would like to establish a European bridgehead in a dynamically-growing economic region, then it would be worthwhile for them to examine and choose from among the countries of Central Europe – perhaps even Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Prime Minister and I have conducted fruitful negotiations, and we came to an agreement on a few specific issues. First of all, now we can finally begin construction of the hospital that we previously decided on, and which we can perhaps see over there: that’s a model of it. And I can tell you that we will be building a superb hospital here in Vietnam. In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade has succeeded in securing the highest possible sum available for the region from the tied aid budget in a fund for Vietnam: there is now a tied aid fund of hundreds of millions of dollars available for investments here in the period ahead. In the language of international diplomacy this is called a tied aid programme, but in fact it is not aid. It is a credit facility for investment and development projects: projects that the Hungarians are financing for joint Vietnamese–Hungarian projects that we believe offer prospects for the future. This budget is worth several hundred million dollars. This currently has an upper limit, but if this idea proves to be successful, then we are also prepared to increase this limit in future. We have with us here the head of Hungary’s Eximbank, and it will be his job to finance these projects: a job that he is clearly more than happy to undertake – particularly as in recent years trade flow has increased significantly. It may be well below its potential, as the Deputy Prime Minister also indicated, but if we look at the trajectory of this growth then we can see that there are opportunities to achieve annual growth of thirty, forty, or even fifty per cent. So in the period ahead the current volume of trade between the two countries could be multiplied several times over – and indeed we hope this will be the case.

Dear Vietnamese Friends,

There are a few areas in which finding ways to cooperate with Hungarian companies is particularly worthwhile. There are areas in which we are among the global vanguard in terms of knowledge and level of technological training. This is the level we are at in the healthcare industry – as you will see when we have completed the hospital.

We are also at this level in the field of information technology. In recent years we have developed systems that are globally competitive. And, if I’m not mistaken, some of what we have accomplished is already here in Vietnam. We are strong in transport management and population registration systems, and generally in projects serving operation of the state. We are also strong in creating the IT and technological background required to assure food safety. We can compete with the very best, and in this field talent is more important than a country’s size. It is our firm – but rather immodest – belief that we are in an excellent position when it comes to talent. And as a result, within the field of information technology Hungary is one of the frontrunners; and this is a position we would like to retain.

Similarly, I would also like to call Hungary’s food industry and agriculture to your attention. Many Vietnamese students have studied in these fields and have received their degrees in Hungary. Therefore they have had the opportunity to see first-hand that, for several decades, the quality of Hungary’s agricultural technologies has been among the highest in the world. And this is still the case today. I would also like to inform our Vietnamese friends that we are not moving in the direction of mass production, but instead in the direction of high-quality production. In the years ahead there will be much debate about how we can supply the world’s growing population with food. In Hungary GMOs are banned, meaning that genetically modified foods cannot be produced in Hungary: seeds of this kind cannot be introduced in agriculture, and this agricultural practice’s spread to Hungary is forbidden by the Constitution. Since our climate and soil are both excellent, and we are in possession of suitable modern technology based on traditional knowledge, we believe that we have no need to undertake the risks presented by genetically modified foods. Accordingly, if our plan is realised, Hungary could be the first country in the world in which not only is production of genetically modified foods not permitted, but, I hope, at a later stage the distribution of such foods will also be banned. Although there is still much work to do in order to achieve this, the direction in which we are moving is nevertheless promising.

And finally, I would like to mention a fourth industrial sector in which Hungary is regarded as one of the world’s best: this is the water industry. If I am not mistaken, we have already built a water treatment plant here, in the province of Quảng Binh – which I find impossible to pronounce. I hope we have done a good job, despite this. So we have succeeded in building a water treatment plant in this province, and it would seem that it has indeed stood the test of time. It is my firm belief that in terms of reliability, technical security and quality, Hungarian water management experts are able to provide a level of service that can compete with that in any other country in the world.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, Vietnamese Friends,

Hungary stands on the foundations of private ownership and strives to motivate people to achieve a high level of performance; accordingly, we are particularly protective of investments in Hungary. If you invest in Hungary we shall also protect your investments. It is for precisely this reason that Hungary operates with an extremely low level of tax. It is an exceptionally open economy, which means that all our regulations are aimed at enabling investors to come to Hungary, and also at enabling Hungarian investors to invest in other countries. If you look at the macroeconomic figures, you will see that Hungary is rising and strengthening. If I were Vietnamese, it would be of interest to me and if I were a Vietnamese businessperson I would like to know what is happening in a country where so many of my compatriots have graduated from university, a country they have relished living in, and where the Vietnamese community is held in high esteem. In summary, my Vietnamese Friends, we await you!

I wish every success to the businesspeople here.