The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) established its Hungarian office in 1992 with the purpose of further developing economic exchanges. Diplomacy & Trade has recently published this article based on an interview with the then General Director of the Budapest office.
JETRO was established by the Japanese government in 1958 as the principal organization for implementing and promoting trade between Japan and foreign countries. Headquartered in Tokyo and Osaka, JETRO has 36 local offices in Japan and 73 overseas offices in 55 countries, one of them in Hungary.
Since its foundation in 1992, the Budapest office has promoted exports, investment, and trade between the two countries. In the early phase of operation, Japanese experts were invited to Hungary and seminars were organized to make it possible for companies to participate in exhibitions and to organize study visits for Hungarian businessmen in Japan.
As the General Director of the Budapest office, Yoshiyasu Imazu explains to Diplomacy and Trade, nowadays, they perform three principal tasks: supporting Japanese companies in Hungary, promoting the export of Japanese goods to Hungary, and providing information on Hungary to Japan. In the meantime, “we are also supporting the activities of the Shokokai business association in Hungary.”
In connection with the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), JETRO Budapest has recently proposed Shokokai writing a letter to the Hungarian government to ask the European Union to open negotiations with Japan on this issue because this agreement also helps Japanese companies to invest in Europe in the future. “We have received a response from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that acknowledged our proposal,” the General Director says.
Imazu, who has been in Hungary for almost one and a half years, adds that “we are sometimes providing support for Japanese companies not only in Hungary but elsewhere in Europe, as well. For instance, we are in contact with Japanese suppliers of the automotive industry.”
When the Japanese wish to invest in this region, they always take a thorough look at the conditions and the investment environment in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries before they make a decision. “Of course, I always recommend Hungary because of its infrastructure, especially the highway network that they don’t have in Poland, for instance.
Moreover, the workforce in Hungary is highly qualified and we always stress this fact to visiting Japanese businessmen. In Hungary, Japanese and other managers can afford to live in Budapest and commute to work in adjacent towns because of the good road network. Otherwise, workers, middle management and engineers are all at the same competency level as in Poland,” the General Director points out.
He adds that “in the Japanese newspapers, Hungary has lately been portrayed as the ‘mischievous boy of the European Union’. Japanese companies wish to know what the real situation in Hungary is. At our seminars, they hear opinions from a variety of sources like the government, Magyar Suzuki, JETRO, the Hungarian export promotion agency HITA as well as law firms.”
JETRO issues a daily economic report, “for which I wrote some articles about the economic changes in Hungary, about the various views of the Prime Minister, the Economics Minister and the Foreign Minister,” Imazu says, stressing that he tries to counter the negative news about Hungary by quoting information about recent German investments here, like that of Mercedes and Audi. “This tells the Japanese that the investment environment is not so bad here.”
One of the most important current topics is the change in the Hungarian Labor Code. JETRO Budapest has assisted Japanese companies in this issue. “We organized a seminar and, if individual companies require more assistance, we can offer them law firms we are in contact with and they can give them advice. As a lot of Japanese firms are interested, we have also published a report on this topic,” the General Director concludes.