The French-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFH) calls for long-term predictability. That is the essence of the interview CCIFH President, Antoine Guego gave to a recent print edition of Diplomacy & Trade.
CCIFH was established in 1999 and as Antoine Guego explains,“these 22 years of our existence here show that French investors did not come to Hungary for opportunistic reasons but really to be part of the Hungarian economy. It is a long-term relationship that has produced investments amounting over EUR 10 billion. Most of the French-owned companies are managed by Hungarians and we are one of the biggest employers in the country. We are certainly one of the most reliable taxpayers.”
There is a long list of services CCIFH offers. As the director the Chamber, Ágnes Ducrot points out, CCIFH organizes about 50 events a year, produces three publications and also provides commercial services for French companies such as accompanying them for visits to possible partners and meeting their needs in finding partners. It is something Antoine Guego calls ‘targeted networking’. “We do not just put people around the lunch table but rather organize ‘speed meetings’ for them, which are very successful, always attracting at least 200 people. We have just done a ‘targeted networking’ event for a distribution company to meet local suppliers and even foreign suppliers with the intention of serving the Hungarian market. This is a service provided exclusively for our members,” the President explains.
He believes the most important task is to restore the harmony between the French and Hungarian business communities because “there is no issue between France and Hungary. The Hungarian government decided to levy taxes on strategic sectors in which France – among other foreign investors – occupied and still occupy an important position. Our role at the Chamber is not only to defend the interests of our members and also to – on one hand – lobby the authorities for what we think is fair and normal business but also to reassure both our members and the French partners that this matter is not a bilateral issue. It was an economic issue in which French companies were in the forefront due to the nature of their investments. Today, our main goal is to restore understanding, peace and harmony so that all our members can be sure that we are doing business normally in Hungary.“
The concern for Antoine Guego, who is the Country and General Director for Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria Accor Hotels, is that foreign investments in Hungary seem to be flat at best. “This is a key issue, which – unfortunately – is not yet visible in daily life today. However, it will be. When foreign investment is declining, it is not replaced by local investment. It is tomorrow’s jobs that are at stake. We are building a generation of highly educated young people who may enter the market where there are fewer jobs available. The main issue for me regarding the Hungarian government is to reinstate the climate in which all foreign investors feel welcome and feel that their investments will be safe in the long run. What the business community needs is long-term predictability. We need to know that the legal environment is not going to change every year – the same for the fiscal environment. Until this feeling of insecurity ends, people will not invest here.”
What the Chamber can do is “talk to whoever we can in the government bodies and the surroundings of the prime minister to convince the decision-makers. We always communicate that the foreign investors want to continue to invest in Hungary, we want to be part of the Hungarian economy, we are not here to be opportunistic, we are here to support the economy, and thus, of course, make our own profit,” he says.