In 2021, the United Kingdom and Hungary celebrated 100 years of diplomatic relations.
Historically, there has been a colourful and close relationship between the two countries which included in 1924, Britain financing Hungary’s reconstruction and re-entry into European commercial activity post-breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and following Hungarian independence from the former USSR economic zone, Hungary’s exports to the United Kingdom are now over $3.71 billion of trade, being mostly electronic equipment and machinery.
Last Wednesday saw a host of British, Hungarian and international guests from businesses in many sectors fill the Hungarian Embassy to celebrate the launch of the Hungarian British Business Alliance (HBBA).
The Honorary Members, Executive Committee and Team arrived to be ushered into an anteroom that within the past week hosted the V4 Prime Ministers meeting. Here they were introduced to the His Excellency Dr Ferenc Kumin Phd, Hungarian Ambassador to the Court of St James’s (London), Judit Czako and Tamás Amer Investment and Trade Commissioners for the UK. Both the Ambassador and his Attachés were charming beyond words and delighted to greet us!
Before the reception I did not know what to expect regarding the wine. Never having heard of or as far as I was aware drunk Hungarian wine, I decided to curb my expectation A glass of sparkling wine was served that completely exceeded an expectation that I may have had if I was visiting, say, the French Embassy! It was elegant: dry, crisp and cold.
At six o’clock we proceeded upstairs to the main reception room along with 150 guests arriving. One of the lovely friendly waiters served me white wine. I was skeptical: but it was even better than the sparkling! A full-bodied smooth dry chardonnay with the most delicious vanilla aftertaste.
Not the first of its kind but certainly the newest, the purpose of the HBBA is to promote and facilitate bilateral trade growth between the two countries by providing access to networks, business resources and high-profile events.
In his speech, Ambassador Ferenc Kumin emphasised trade as a deterrent to conflict and highlighted the importance of the business community in successful national alliances. Hungary is bordered by Ukraine. It has taken over 200,000 Ukrainians displaced by the conflict and is accepting more refugees every day. What I see as the real opportunity is the timing now of Hungary to replace Russia as UK’s ‘Eastern’ trading partner.
A very surprising aspect of the evening was that the Ambassador stayed until closing time. He is extremely charming, witty and down to earth.
Hungary has a skilled workforce proficient in English and similar values with royal relationships going back generations. It has the lowest corporation tax (9%) in Europe.
According to the Government, benefits for UK businesses exporting to Hungary include:
- English accepted as a business language
- western style business culture
- over £28 billion European Union (EU) funding between 2014 and 2020
- UK ‘brand’ viewed positively
Strengths of the Hungarian market include:
- strategic location in the heart of Europe
- well-developed transport network
- open economy
- good infrastructure and communications
- investment incentives
In addition, the United Kingdom is the 6th largest foreign investor in Hungary and there are around 900 British companies operating in Hungary, with almost 55,000 employees.
Right now, it feels like we are at the cusp of a change of pace in UK and Hungary business relations for anyone who grasps it and I’m excited to contribute to the Hungarian British Business Alliance and members to enable greater trade. The HBBA’s mission is to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. Guided by the co-founders Susanna Toth and Alireza Yaghmaei, and the Honorary Chair Peter Wilcock the Association has a large and comprehensive remit which myself and the team plan to achieve as fast as possible.
Both individuals and companies can join. If you would like to find out more about membership or the Association, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org