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Japanese Ambassador to Hungary

Binding ties with Hungary

D&T
January 3, 2017

“Japan and Hungary are important partners in the international community, and we have been contributing to the resolution of regional and international issues. My mission and goal are to endeavor to further strengthen this bilateral relationship," the Japanese Ambassador to Hungary, Junichi Kosuge tells a recent issue of Diplomacy&Trade.

It was more than 30 years ago that Junichi
Kosuge first visited Hungary. “Back then, I was a very young diplomat serving in
Vienna. It was at the beginning of the 1980s when Hungary was still behind the
Iron Curtain. At that time, I had the impression that the atmosphere in Hungary was already free and
lively,” he recalls to Diplomacy&Trade.

Now, he is back to this country as the
Japanese Ambassador to Hungary, a position he took up two years ago. Regarding
the objectives, he set for himself in this job, he points out that “Japan and
Hungary are important partners in the international community, and we have been
contributing to the resolution of regional and international issues. My mission
and goal are to endeavor to further strengthen this bilateral relationship.
Needless to say, it is also important to further promote the bilateral economic
relations, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as to promote the
recognition and understanding toward Japan. I have been putting my efforts in
these areas, as well. I would be grateful if I could further develop our close
bilateral friendship, which had been built through the efforts of our
predecessors.”

Cooperation internationally

Japanese-Hungarian diplomatic relations
date back almost 150 years. The Ambassador stresses that although, Japan and Hungary are geographically far
away, “traditionally, we have a friendly relationship. Japan and the European
Union (EU) share fundamental values and principles such as freedom, democracy,
human rights and the rule of law, being deeply committed to free and open
international order, and playing an important role in establishing the norms in
the international community. In recent years, Hungary is increasing its
presence as a member of the EU. Japan considers Hungary as an important
partner, and expects to further deepen the cooperation not only bilaterally, but
also in resolving global issues including security matters.”

Japan is cooperating
with the East Central European region in the ‘V4 (Visegrád Group) + Japan’
framework to resolve the issues in regional and international affairs. In this
framework, there is cooperation in a wide range of fields, such as exchange of
views on the situation in Ukraine and in East Asia, cooperation in the United
Nations reform, cooperation towards the early conclusion of the Japan-EU
Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The implementation of economic
cooperation projects by the ‘V4 + Japan’ group in the Western Balkans and the
Eastern Partnership countries has been carried out.

Important partners

When talking about the Embassy’s major
partners to work on various issues in Hungary, the Ambassador stresses that “it goes without saying that the Hungarian
governmental agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Hungarian Investment Promotion
Agency (HIPA), as well as
foreign diplomatic corps are important
partners for us. Besides that, it is essential to bind friendly ties not only with
the government but also at various
levels in
society, such as the private sector, educational institutions,
the media, or the citizens, in order to
promote the public diplomacy, which is important in deepening
the bilateral relationship. Fortunately, Hungarian people are friendly
towards Japan, and I am grateful that the Embassy of Japan has obtained truly
cooperative partners in a variety of fields and at different levels.”

Besides the Embassy, the Far Eastern country is
present in Budapest through the offices of the Japan External Trade Relations
Organization (JETRO) and of the Japan Foundation. “It is quite encouraging for
me that they serve as the hub to strengthen the bilateral or the Japan-EU
relationship in the fields of economics, culture and people-to-people
exchanges, respectively,” he adds.

Business ties

As far as bilateral economic relations are
concerned, Ambassador Kosuge highlights that there are about 150 Japanese companies operating in Hungary, mainly
in the automotive sector, creating
about 31,000 local employments. In the past four
years, about 15
Japanese companies have made new
investments or expanded their businesses in Hungary. In October this year, an electronics manufacturer decided on an investment of
about EUR 17 million to be implemented in central Hungary. Direct investments from Japan has shown healthy growth in 2016.

With
regard to Japanese-Hungarian trade relations, they also show a healthy trend:
exports from Hungary to Japan in 2015 amounted to EUR 749 million, increasing by
almost 75% in the past three years, while the imports from Japan reached EUR 1,133
million, with an increase of 27% over the same period.

The Ambassador finds
it important to note that “although, many people have an impression that Hungary
is attracting industries mainly in the automotive sector, I have heard that in
recent years, they are also focusing on attracting other sectors such as food,
ICT, pharmaceutical or environmental industries. Since the Japanese companies
are highly competitive in these areas, I believe that there is still more room
for widening our bilateral economic ties in the future.”

He
adds that in considering investment opportunities in foreign countries, Japanese
companies take into consideration the possibilities in Central and Eastern
European countries such as the V4 or Romania before finally determining the most appropriate place to invest. The main attractiveness of the Hungarian investment environment is the well-developed network of roads, the excellent and low-cost labor, secured public safety, its location in the center of Europe, and the solid institutional support from the government (and its agencies such as
HIPA)
to provide incentives.

Guest of honor

In 2017, Japan will be the guest of honor
at the National Agriculture and Food Exhibition in Budapest as the Far Eastern
country is known to be the importer of various quality products from Hungary. As
regards the most popular Hungarian food products in Japan, Ambassador Kosuge mentions
that in
addition to foie gras, Tokaj wine and honey, Mangalica pork is getting a great deal of interest in Japan
recently. Similar to Japanese beef ‘Wagyu’, Mangalica
pork has a melt-in-the-mouth taste because of its high-quality fat content, and
is favored by Japanese people, as well.

He is of the opinion
that “in
recent years, the number of Japanese restaurants is steadily growing in this
country, especially in Budapest. I hope that Japanese food and sake will be
accepted in Hungary, as well. I felt very honored to hear from the Hungarian
Minister of Agriculture, Sándor Fazekas that he would like to invite Japan as a
guest of honor to the Hungarian Agriculture and Food Exhibition. There are more
delicious agricultural products in Japan, which are not yet well known in
Hungary. So, I would like the people in Hungary to learn more about
high-quality Japanese agricultural products and delicious Japanese cuisine
through this Agriculture and Food Exhibition.”

In an earlier interview with
Diplomacy&Trade, Ambassador Kosuge said he himself likes Hungarian wines
and statistics confirm he is not the only Japanese person in this regard as his
country is the second largest Hungarian wine importer in Asia.

“Tokaj
Aszú is the most well-known Hungarian wine in Japan, but there are many other tasty wines in
Hungary,
and nowadays, a huge variety of them have come to be
known in Japan,
as well. So far, I myself have visited a number of wineries such as those in Villány, Szekszárd and Etyek. Each time I visit a winery, I witness its specific
features
and commitment of the wine producers, and encounter yet another
delicious type of wine. There are still many fine sorts of Hungarian wine
which I am not familiar with, so I would like to learn more about Hungarian
wine and introduce those delicious Hungarian wines to Japanese consumers,” he says.

Tourist destinations

When the Hungarian government commissioner for tourism
visited Tokyo earlier this year, the necessity of a direct charter flight
between the two countries was raised. Quoting the latest figures available, the
Ambassador says that in 2015,
about 64,000 Japanese travelers visited Hungary,
which is thus ranked
in fourth place in the Central and Eastern European countries after Austria, Croatia and the Czech Republic. “Hungary has a high
potential for tourism business with a number of resources for tourism such
as UNESCO World Heritage sites, unique culture, music and cuisine. Since they are also what Japanese
tourists are interested in, and I hope more and of them visit
Hungary
to enjoy them.”

He
adds that although, the number of
Hungarian tourists visiting Japan is still low, “we are aware that there is a
growing interest in Japanese food and culture among Hungarians. As the Olympic
and Paralympic Games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 2020, I expect that in the future, we will be able to strengthen our ties
in the tourism sector, as well.”

Enjoying Hungary

Looking back at his stay in Hungary as a private
individual, Ambassador Kosuge highlights that “over these two years that have passed since I was appointed as the Ambassador of Japan to Hungary, I have experienced the friendliness of the Hungarian people and warmth of the Hungarian society in my daily life. Moreover, I
am always impressed to see that Hungarian people have a keen interest in
Japan and Japan’s culture, and trying to
deepen their understanding about Japan.
The city of Budapest, where I have spent these two years, is truly deserved to be called the ‘Pearl of Danube’
and I love this beautiful landscape. I could also enjoy the attractive culture of local towns and cities I have visited so far.”

He says he also enjoys
Hungarian cuisine, such
as Hungarian wine, salami and goulash
soup. “I visited the city of Baja the other day, where I could taste
the famous fish soup Hungarians
call ‘halászlé’. It was wonderful. I also love beautiful music halls, folk music, folk dances and art crafts such as potteries and porcelains,” he concludes.

D&T

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