The Philippines and Hungary are determined to bring their partnership into a more strategic direction, following the signing of an economic cooperation agreement in Makati and the re-opening of the Embassy of Hungary in Taguig on 28 March.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto signed the Philippines-Hungarian Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA) in Makati, which aims at creating a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) for both sides to serve as a platform to discuss trade, investments, economic cooperation and other related matters.

The JEC will be a venue to discuss sectors or areas of mutual interests, as well as means to broaden and intensify cooperation between both countries.
“Cooperation activities include exchange of information, participation in trade- and investment-related activities and promotion of economic cooperation among institutions,” said Sec. Lopez.

The JEC will also promote cooperation in terms of expert services, financial institutions and banking sectors, establishment of joint ventures and facilitation of the participation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The trade chief also said that the agreement is an additional dimension to the trade relationship between the Philippines and Hungary given the ongoing PH–European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, adding that it is in line with the current strategy of President Rodrigo Duterte to re-balance trade relations with non-traditional trading partners.

On trade, the Philippines is determined to promote products in terms of electronics, auto parts, processed food (marine products, fruits, snack food, etc.), costume jewelry/giftware (including costume jewelry), and personal care products, as well as promote the tourism sector.

Meanwhile, sectors for investment promotion are in the areas of manufacturing, aerospace, processed and specialty food, IT-BPM, energy efficiency technologies, retail, and training center.

The Philippines can also capitalize on Hungary’s strengths and expertise to enhance implementation of existing industry roadmaps on automotive, electronics, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, information and communications technology (ICT) and food, according to the trade chief.

In 2016, Hungary ranked as the Philippines’ 40th trading partner (out of 226), 26th export market (out of 213) and 63rd import supplier (out of 206).

In 2015, the Philippines was Hungary’s 4th import supplier among the ASEAN Member States (AMS). As an export market, the Philippines ranked 5th. The JEC will also provide the Philippines an opportunity to improve its standing as a trade partner with Hungary among the AMS.

Meanwhile, both sides also convened a bilateral meeting on the same day. Sec. Lopez discussed with his Hungarian counterpart the Europe strategy, the operationalization of the PH-Hungary economic partnership and the manufacturing resurgence program.

Sec. Lopez also shared with his counterpart the Comprehensive National Industrial Strategy (CNIS) and the Manufacturing Resurgence Program (MRP) that focuses on the growth and development of five priority industries: (1) manufacturing; (2) agribusiness; (3) IT-business process management, particularly knowledge process outsourcing; (4) tourism; and (5) infrastructure and logistics.

The Philippines acknowledged the importance of manufacturing as a driver of the country’s economy. He reported that in the last seven years (2010-2016), the manufacturing sector has grown at an average of 7.5% annually. Just in 2016, the manufacturing output posted growth at 8% (2016) from a mere 2.5% in 2015, and has already outpaced that of the service sector.

“This shows that government’s MRP is beginning to gain traction and that our industrial base is now widening after decades of slowdown. This further indicates that we are becoming less of a consumer-driven economy and more an investment-led one,” he concluded.