The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (CCCH) that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013 has the declared aim of promoting business for both Canadian and Hungarian companies, and – as the President of the Chamber, Nicholas Sarvari, explains to Diplomacy & Trade – “we attach to this Canadian enthusiasm. We do this promotion through networking. The whole idea is to find new and innovative ways to get people together.”
By the time Nicholas Sarvari became the Chair of the Board of Directors in January 2009, he had had a lot of experience there, having been vice president and board director since 2002.
“At the beginning, the Chamber was just a club of individuals who came together to have a forum to discuss being in Hungary and doing business here, sharing experiences and making contacts. I myself got to know people here who would stand as the foundation of my own consultancy business.”
When he took over at the helm of the CCCH, “it was clear that over all these years, the Hungarian part in this Canadian-Hungarian chamber had been neglected. I spent the first couple of years rebuilding this section and founded a trade program to help supply information for Hungarian companies on export opportunities. This effort is gaining momentum as large companies who are sponsors can see that their clientele and their suppliers need this service to be able to find opportunities in the global market,” he points out.
For an international company, being an active CCCH member means the opportunity for widening its supplier network. “4-5 years ago, the government announced preferential treatment for companies that had more than 10% of their suppliers as Hungarian firms. However, there simply were not enough suppliers in this country to meet this criterion. Ever since, we at the Chamber have been working hard – in concert with the government – on a program to improve this situation and bring on board large companies as it is in their interest to have these suppliers. Clusters are of great help in this respect; they represent a strong group together and provide their respective business sector important momentum. We believe that the market will eventually solve this problem but we must also provide help,” Sarvari stresses.
He points out that “it’s not a big surprise that the international image and communication of Hungary is at an all time low. There are certain things in this economy that have not been taken seriously but need to be addressed. As far as business is concerned, predictability is of primary importance in legislation. The cost of labor is another huge issue. As the amount of tax to be paid for the employment of individuals is so high, it is extremely difficult to work with talented people in Hungary as you will not be able to pay them an internationally competitive wage. It is also extremely important that all players in business life accept compliance with anti-corruption guidelines in place in the EU. Unfortunately, the acceptance of transparency is not declared in Hungary – and it would do itself a huge favor by following suit.”
Regarding the new trade agreement between Canada and the EU, the Chamber President says that “CETA will create opportunities even for the smallest companies here. The responsibility of organizations like our chamber – and also that of the government – is to heed this message, try and understand how this opportunity can be exploited the most.”