Hungary is firmly against “severing” the European Union’s economic cooperation with China in a move to “override economic realities with political considerations”, and instead calls for shaping mutually advantageous relations, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said in Stockholm on Friday. Speaking after an informal meeting of EU trade ministers, Péter Szijjártó said Europe had become one of the losers of the past years’ economic trends, at a time when a “new era is about to take shape”.
Western manufacturers of electric cars, a key sector in world economy, have become dependent on eastern players, he said. Of the ten largest battery manufacturers in the world, 7 are Chinese and 3 South-Korean, he added. Meanwhile, the EU’s sanctions on Russia in response to the war in Ukraine have proven more harmful for the bloc’s economy than to Russia, he said. The US is using the situation to draw investments from the EU, he said. “Europe is not in great shape in this context, and now, some within and without the EU are trying to inspire us to yet another self-destructive decision that I think would be a fatal error: to artificially sever economic ties between Europe and China,” Szijjártó said.
Trade volume between the EU and China was at 856 billion euros last year, and the EU would “lose out” on halting trade, he said. Hungary’s share of that volume was 1.4% last year, he noted. “Should someone decide to sever those economic ties, that would deal a shattering blow to a key European sector, car manufacturing,” he said.
Hungary would be hit especially hard as it is an important meeting point of western car manufacturers and eastern battery makers, he said. “Overriding economic realities with dogmatic political considerations would be extremely harmful,” he said.
EU-US cooperation was also discussed at the meeting, Szijjártó said, adding that Hungary has an interest in as close a cooperation as possible. US companies are the second largest investor group in the country, he said.
In connection with the Ukrainian deputy prime minister’s attendance at the talks, Szijjártó noted that Hungary had launched the largest humanitarian operation of its history to aid Ukrainian refugees. It has also implemented an important investment in Fényeslitke, “at the border of the EU and Ukraine,” he said. At the same time, Szijjártó said that Ukrainian grain “originally meant for needy regions in Africa and Asia” often end up on central European markets, “causing disturbance that is hard to handle”. “We think it is important that the EU takes steps to protect central European agricultural interests,” he said. He also called on Ukraine to “stop penalising European companies that have breached no rules but are reluctant to withdraw form Russian markets, as they did with several Hungarian pharmaceutical companies”. Hungary expects the EU to take steps on the issue, he added.