During the World Food Security Summit, what did Hungary share with the UAE in order to improve the trade relationship?
There were two main reasons why I went to the UAE last time. First of all, because there is a well-known exhibition called Gulf Foods, and we have a national booth at that fair. I believe there are 16 Hungarian companies represented. These companies from the food industry produce food at home and sell it worldwide. Half of the companies that are here are attending the fair for the second or third time. They have ongoing business here in the region, if not directly in the UAE. The second reason was that we met some governmental organizations or leaders to talk about some actual topics. Hungary is traditionally an agriculturally focused country, producing roughly 35% to 40% more food than we consume. That means we have a lot of food to sell, not only in this region, however, but in countries where there is demand and the financial resources. It was obvious to come here and discuss this. There was also a mutual interest, not only for the UAE but also Saudi Arabia. Recently, Saudi Arabia stopped local crop production because there is not enough water sourced locally, and the UAE has been importing 90% of the food consumed from outside the country. So, why not be part of this business? I think we are close size-wise compared to the country. Also, those products that are exported to the Emirates are partly re-exported. For us, the size of the country and the market here are not limiting factors, because it also partly re-sells the foods it imports. Hungarian farming compared to the local farming sector here is structurally different. We have large-scale farms of an average size of 300 hectares. We have even larger companies producing products that are popular here as well, like poultry or vegetables. These companies have perfect conditions to produce, but some of them do not have enough money to invest in further processing or to refine the production they have. Therefore, I think that it would be of mutual interest to combine these efforts. I have the money and conditions to produce, so why not establish a joint venture or sell part of the shares of my company and give you the possibility to share the profit. We have partners with these companies in the private sector. We work as a supporter at the governmental level to try to bring two partners together to arrange business. We cannot be involved in private business, but the conditions must be fair.
How is the new trade office helping boost the relationship between the UAE and Hungary?
The main aim in establishing this office was and is to help Hungarian SMEs and even large companies to discover business possibilities in this region. With a few exceptions in Hungary, the average Hungarian company is not an expert in the region. So, a local representative could be of great help for these companies. Hungary has excellent products that could be marketed here, but if we don't know about the demand, we won't know how to bring the parties together. So that is the reason.
How is the double-taxation agreement that Hungary signed with the UAE in November 2013 assisting business?
It is obvious that as part of the EU, we are not totally independent, fortunately and unfortunately, from EU legislation. However, this helps us make business easier. For business-oriented companies, they don't want to have borders. However, if there is no double taxation, that is already quite an achievement. The only other aspects we have to take into consideration for agriculture are the veterinary agreements. Theoretically, we can already sell, but if there are no agreements without limitations between the countries, then it is still just a potential, and not a real possibility. We still have to work on that and all the objectives should be cleared.
What are your forecasts in terms of annual trade between Hungary and the UAE?
I know that this potentially will be a neutral trade. Right now, it is only one-sided. There is around €50,000 imported by Hungary from the Emirates. The only sales are one directional; it comes from Hungary to the Emirates.