SINGAPORE: Singapore and Hungary are keen to further economic cooperation both bilaterally and regionally, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Sep 26).
Speaking at a joint media conference with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, who is in Singapore for his first official visit as Prime Minister, Mr Lee said he is pleased that relations are growing steadily.
Both men had last met in 2014, on the sidelines of the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.
Mr Lee noted the strengthening economic cooperation between Singapore and Hungary, with bilateral trade reaching S$1.14 billion last year - up from S$733 million in 2015.
"The figure is still modest, but both sides are keen to further economic cooperation, both bilaterally and regionally," said Mr Lee.
Both leaders also agreed that it is important for Singapore and Hungary to remain open to free trade, with Singapore being Hungary's largest ASEAN trading partner.
Mr Lee pointed out that Hungary provides an "excellent gateway" for Singapore and ASEAN to Central and Eastern Europe.
Likewise, Singapore is also a trading and financial hub located in the middle of Southeast Asia, which Hungary can make full use of to access the growing ASEAN market.
Three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were also signed between Singapore and Hungary on Tuesday.
The first aims to boost air transport cooperation, paving the way for Singapore and Hungarian airlines to fly any number of direct services between both countries, with no restrictions in areas like capacity.
Another agreement that was inked aims to promote cooperation among education institutions, in particular scholarships for Singaporeans to study in Hungary.
The third MOU is aimed at boosting cooperation in food safety, with Singapore keen to diversify its food imports, and Hungary interested in food exports.
"These agreements will further strengthen bilateral relations and encourage greater people-to-people ties," said Mr Lee.
"I am confident that relations between Singapore and Hungary will grow from strength to strength and we will continue to work closely to bring our two countries and our two regions closer together."
Mr Lee also thanked his counterpart for Hungary's support for the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, as well as the ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
Speaking in Hungarian, Mr Orban noted that there are several Singaporean companies who have sizeable investments in Hungary and called on more in the business community to follow suit.
“There are a few areas in our relations between the two countries where we still have a lot of potential to exploit. Singapore, I think has more might when it comes to investments than what she has shown in Hungary so far,” he said.
“We also like to perhaps increase our share when it comes to the Singaporean economic success.”
Mr Orban, who is traveling with a sizeable business delegation, also pointed out his country’s strengths in areas like agriculture and IT.
He will attend a Singapore-Hungary business forum on Wednesday - the second and last day of his visit.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Orban was greeted with a ceremonial welcome at the Istana and called on President Halimah Yacob.
This is Mdm Halimah’s first high-level foreign engagement since assuming the role. She had visited Hungary in 2015, in her previous capacity as Speaker of Parliament.