HUNGARYThe Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) in collaboration with the DTI-Export Marketing Bureau (EMB), forged strong business partnerships with their Hungarian counterparts, committing to make it happen for them in the Philippines. Against the backdrop of the 5th Philippines-Hungary Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) Meeting on December 5 to 6, 2023, the Philippine business delegation representing diverse sectors such as automotive battery, electronics, meat production, innovation/startups and recruitment services participated in the HU-PH Business Forum and B2B Meetings, showcasing trade and investments opportunities of mutual interests between the two countries. 

The said forum, organized by the Embassy of Hungary in Manila, the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency (HEPA) and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M-FAT), was attended by over 70 Hungarian businessmen with interests spanning from agriculture/ agro-processing/food,  green and renewable energy, manufacturing/ toll manufacturing of auto parts, healthcare/cosmetics, industrial machinery and furniture,  ITBPM/software solutions and fintech/digitalization, startup for agriculture, waste management, water technology and wholesale/distribution of various products, and many more. 

The two-day business activities in Hungary and bilateral meetings resulted to concrete and positive outcomes that will further enhance the economic relations of the Philippines and Hungary, particularly in the areas of trade and investments. 

The Philippine Comparative Advantage in People, Place, and Policy Directions. 

In his welcome address, DTI Undersecretary for International Trade Policy Group Allan B. Gepty, who headed the Philippine Delegation and is the Philippine Co-Chair for the 5th PH-HU JCEC, highlighted the Philippines’ strong economic performance and its comparative advantage to becoming the manufacturing and R&D hub in Asia. He underscored that the center of economic activities is no longer in Europe or North America, and that the focus is now in Asia, particularly in South East Asia, to which the Philippines as the fastest growing economy in the said region, serves as the key gateway.  

 “Under the current setting, where the ASEAN region is at the core of economic activities from conceptualization to commercialization, the Philippines can serve as Hungary’s major link or hub in the region.    

With the Philippines’ dynamic workforce, strategic location, economic reforms and trade and investment policies, it is well-positioned to be the regional hub, for Smart and Sustainable Manufacturing and Services, and a center for training and education, research and development, innovation, and investments “the Trade Undersecretary emphasized.  

He then discussed the Philippines’ key competitive advantages which he summarized into three areas: People, Place and Policy Direction  

On People, the Philippines benefits from a youthful demographic structure relative to the rest of the region. a young English-speaking workforce with the necessary skillset for the Industry 4.0 economy.   

On Place, this refers not just to the Philippines’ geographic location, but also its complementarities and positioning within the global economy. In this respect, the Philippines benefits from a relatively strategic position in terms of linkages and ties to other major economies through bilateral and regional free trade agreements and GSPs. 

On Policies, the Philippines has demonstrated a clear direction of openness and adaptability to the changing times and the demands of its stakeholders and has enacted key economic reforms to support foreign investors

Undersecretary Gepty further highlighted that the Philippines is a party to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, the implementation of which is expected to further fuel growth in the economically dynamic Asian region, which is home to economies that are leaders in their respective fields of comparative advantage. The RCEP region is the largest free trade area in the world accounting for 29% of global trade, 29% of total GDP, and a market of 2.3 billion people.  

The RCEP region is likewise an important foreign direct investment (FDI) destination, accounting for 33% global inward FDI and 47% global outward FDI. It also accounts to 50% of the global manufacturing output; 50% of global automotive products; and 70% of electronic products. It is the main GVC hubs of China, Japan and South Korea. 

Philippines Investments Opportunities and Complementation with Hungary  

Director Lanie Dormiendo of the International Investments Promotion Service of the DTI–BOI emphasized the agency’s positioning strategy, which encapsulates the agency’s investment policies and industry promotion initiatives in line with positioning the Philippines as a Regional Hub for smart and sustainability-driven manufacturing and services industries 

This involves leveraging market-based tools that empower the private sector, with a key emphasis on vital sectors like renewable energy, data centers, telecommunications infrastructure, green metals, and high-tech agriculture, electric vehicles manufacturing, smart and high-tech light manufacturing, and outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) in which the Philippines has very strong competencies. She further stressed the country’s strong sectoral complementation with Hungary, particularly in agribusiness (poultry and meat processing), electronics manufacturing services, EV battery/ green metals and water treatment and supply technologies. 

Subsequently, Mr. Gábor Jenei, Chief Executive Officer of the HEPA, which is the main organizer of the forum, underscored that the HEPA, a non-profit organization aims to support Hungarian companies in successfully entering foreign markets like the Philippines through its new and professional services. This includes providing information, arranging of G2B or B2B networking events/ exhibitions, and offering grants to Hungarian SMEs.  

Hungary-PH friendship and economic commitment 

This year also marks the 50th year anniversary of diplomatic relations between two countries. Hungary’s MFAT Deputy State Secretary (DSS) Katalin Bihari, reaffirmed the flourishing economic bilateral commitment of Hungary with the Philippines.  

She highlighted that since unemployment is used to be one of the Hungary’s problems, their government has supported domestic and foreign investments since 2010 to propel economic growth and competitiveness. However, given that there are specific jobs that have become very hard to be filled in their country, Hungary now also relies on foreign country workers and professionals, including the Philippines. She further expressed Hungary’s highest appreciation to the Philippines for the latter’s dedication and efforts to further strengthen cooperation and to bringing reliable and well qualified Filipino workers to Hungary.   

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Mario Tan Zinampan for Public Policy and International Cooperation of the Philippine Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), who was among the speakers from the Philippines government side, also thanked the Hungarian government for welcoming the Filipino labor force in their country and confirmed the opening of a labor office under the Philippine Embassy in Budapest in the coming year to support labor and welfare concerns of Filipino workers in Hungary.  

After the Business Forum, several MOUs and potential partnerships in digital technologies, subcontracted manufacturing in electronics, R&D, poultry breeding and meat processing, logistics and transport services, as well as in labor and recruitment were sealed. A number of return visits from Hungarians to the Philippines in 2024 are also expected to realize the partnerships. 

The PH-HU diplomatic relations had been established in 1973, and the bilateral economic relations, especially on trade, grew substantially in the past five years upon commencement of the bilateral JCEC.  In 2022, Hungary was the Philippines’ 45th trading partner (out of 231), with almost US$190million trade values; 29th export market (out of 213), and 60th import source (out of 216). ♦

Date of release: 14 December 2023