In 2019, Hungary and Japan will be celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations. We not only cherish our ties going back to 1869, but we are also proud of how deep our cooperation has been over the past centuries. Japan is our strategic partner in the region, with whom we cooperate closely — not only in the fields of culture and the economy, but also in terms of foreign and security policy. We share similar ideas on various issues and we share common values. With regard to economic matters, prospects for even stronger ties between Hungary and Japan are more than encouraging. Japanese investors are particularly important to us — they not only bring capital and create jobs, but they also share with us their state-of-the-art technology and exceptional corporate and business culture. Therefore, Hungary greatly appreciates Japanese investments, and our government has signed strategic cooperation agreements with seven Japanese corporations.

Over the past 25 years, Japanese companies have accompanied us along an extremely difficult path; looking back, the industrial changes over that period seem almost incredible. The contribution of Japanese firms has served to symbolize the fall of communism — and indeed, we have taken them to our hearts, because they have given Hungarian people jobs during past times of economic hardship and high unemployment.

Our relations, however, are not restricted to the bilateral level: EU-Japan links and the steadily evolving V4 plus Japan cooperation are adding further dimensions to our partnership. The recent signing of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement was warmly welcomed by Hungary, and we believe that it takes our cooperation to a higher level.

Let me take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt greetings to the readers of The Japan Times. I am convinced that the long-standing ties between our two nations will become even stronger. History has proved that relations between our citizens and people-to-people contacts have been the real engine of our cooperation, and have kept our friendship alive and vibrant.

Long live the Japanese-Hungarian friendship!

A relationship to transcend generations

“History shows us Hungarians and Japanese worked well together,” said Sandor Kiss, president of the Hungary-Japan Economic Club. “Over a century ago, small privately-owned Hungarian businesses were thriving in Japan.”

“In 1989, as the Soviet generation transitioned to the modern-day democratic system, we saw a boom in Hungarian-Japanese relations,” said professor Judith Vihar, president of the Hungary-Japan Friendship Society.

Today, Japan is the largest Asian investor in Hungary and is a key contributor to the country’s position as a European automotive manufacturing hub.

“Hungary’s automotive industry accounts for 20 percent of the country’s exports, employs more than 175,000 people and generates approximately 26 billion euros,” said Csaba Kilián, the Association of the Hungarian Automotive Industry’s chief executive officer.

“Japanese investment in Hungary is vital to the industry and we hope to attract more value-added Japanese investment in high technology, research and development in the future.”

Hungary’s highly skilled labor force, good infrastructure, cost-competitiveness and strategic location, continues to attract foreign direct investment.

“Approximately 10 million people live in Hungary and the country has a low unemployment rate and a strong talent pool,” said Masahide Honda, general director of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) Budapest. “The country has a thriving domestic market and offers investors accessibility to neighboring Western markets.”

Within Hungary’s strong manufacturing sector, companies are seeking industrial automation solutions — an opportunity for further Japanese value-added investment.

“Hungary is making a positive shift from mainly looking at the number of jobs created to focusing how to improve the future of operations with cutting-edge technologies and more environmentally friendly solutions,” said Japan’s Ambassador to Hungary Kuni Sato.

“Having invested in Hungary, Japanese companies have seen strong growth and many have already gone through expansion projects and have made additional reinvestments,” said Zoltan Sűdy, Hungary’s former ambassador to Japan.

Earlier this year the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement was signed.

“Based on standard economic models, Hungary will benefit greatly from the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,” said David Szabo, director of research at the Századveg Foundation.

“Additionally, with foreign investors creating new jobs and introducing new technologies into regions eligible for European Union funding, investors can apply for tax exemptions, cash incentives and other benefits.”

“The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will provide a good advantage for Hungarian companies that are ready to do business in Japan. Once the quality of the product or service is established, the Japanese can be a very good market,” said Sato.