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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has criticised the EU’s tariffs on China’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturers as “bad and ill-thought-out”, warning that the measure could trigger a trade war. Orbán told public radio that the “biggest aim and the strongest hope” was that the tariffs would only be temporary and would be lifted after four months. He said the European Commission had justified the introduction of the tariffs with the need to protect the interests of European manufacturers, adding, at the same time, that the leaders of the major carmakers he had spoken to ahead of the start of Hungary’s EU presidency had strongly opposed the measure. “These kinds of bad and ill-though-out decisions can push economic life towards a trade war”, the prime minister warned, saying this “decision by the bureaucrats” could trigger counter-measures from the East. Hungary’s interests, he said, lay in averting a trade war, because “we make our living by being able to sell what we produce in Hungary all over the world”. “But if there’s going to be a trade war then we won’t be able to sell the products produced in Hungary, and this could eventually threaten jobs,” he added.
Turning to the economy, Orbán said there were encouraging signs which should neither be overestimated nor underestimated. He underlined the importance of the tourism sector, noting that the money spent by tourists in Hungary made its way into the Hungarian economy. He said the government was trying to reach an agreement with Hungarian employers that would result in good wages, as this was “the most important tool in the fight against inflation”. “We’re burning the candle at both ends … in the interest of easing the cost of living,” he said, adding that 60% of bookings in the tourism sector were from domestic and 40% form foreign travellers, which indicated that “there’s something Hungarians can afford here at home”. Orbán said that in addition to the government’s housing programmes that have helped 250,000 families the home renovation subsidy scheme would help 20,000-30,000 families. He said employment data and the state of the construction sector — where a bigger slowdown had been expected — were both encouraging, but it would not be until the US presidential election in the autumn and when the outcome of the war became clearer that it would be known whether a general improvement in the situation could be expected. “We have a lot of work to do before then,” Orbán said.