Hungary urges the European Union to sign as many free trade agreements as it can over the coming period, Péter Szijjártó, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said during a break in a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
Speaking to Hungarian reporters, Szijjártó said the EU should forget about “political preconditions” when it comes to signing trade deals, arguing that there was “no point to them”. The EU should not conflate trade and the economy with issues that have nothing to do with either, he added. Hungary is pushing for the bloc to enter into close institutional cooperation with the free trade area in the Far East, Szijjártó said. Losing out on the opportunity to cooperate with that trade bloc would cost the EU a lot and could also affect the trade turnovers of its member states, he added.
“There is a pressing need for urgent steps to restore the EU’s former weight in the world economy and global trade,” he said. This is all the more important for Hungary, whose export accounted for over 83% of GDP last year, the 11th biggest rate globally. Szijjártó said a new global economic and trade order has emerged, which he attributed to three factors. Firstly, the pandemic brought about a 9.2% decline in global trade last year. Secondly, the biggest free trade area of all time, a 15-nation zone accounting for 30% of world trade and 28% of the global population, has been established in the Far East. And thirdly, the East has caught up with the West in terms of technology and financing, which brought about a shift to the east in global trade. Over the past 20 years the EU’s share in global GDP has decreased from 24% to 18% because the EU started to overburden its trade agreements with clauses “that have nothing to do with economic cooperation and trade”, Szijjártó said. Setting political, gender and human rights preconditions for trade deals will create a situation in which there will be no one left to make a deal with, he said, adding that this practice should be discontinued.