Belt and Road Initative provides new opportunities for Sino-Hungarian cooperation

(| Updated : 2018-05-16

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The staffs of the Mahart Container Center are relocating containers. [Photo/]

Many European citizens have taken shopping online for Chinese goods for granted, not only because they are cheaper, but also in that they can be delivered home quickly and easily through cross-border e-commerce overseas warehouse services.

The logistics zone is sited close to the Mahart Container Terminal in Hungary. According to the head of the Mahart Container Center, the railway freight line here goes north to Hamburg, Bremen, and south to Koper in Slovenia. New China-European routes have been initiated from cities including Changsha, Xi'an, and Xiamen to Budapest, and the routes are proving to be very busy ones.

The Ghibli Port Logistics Park is situated at the Central European Trade and Logistics Cooperation Zone (CECZ). Shandong Dihao International Investment Co Ltd has a total planned investment of 200 million Euros in CECZ, which has a gross development area of 126,600 square meters. It was recognized as a state-level foreign economic cooperation zone by the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance in 2015, and is the only trade and logistics cooperation zone constructed overseas by China. The CECZ has created more than 1,400 jobs for the locals with local employees constituting 95 percent of the workforce. a A general manager at CECZ said that the newest route in commission is the Changsha-Budapest China-Europe Line (Hunan-Europe Express Line), which enters Hungary via Russia and Ukraine. In more than half a year since operation, more than 20 express trains have been successfully travelled the route, with all their containers packed with products from China including clothing, footwear, small household appliances, steel products, building materials, and tea. In November 2017, the return train from Budapest to Changsha was officially put in service.

The businesses of the CECZ are divided into logistics and commerce. At the city center of Budapest, an exhibition area of 43,000 square meters of Chinese brand products has now been rendered a display platform for Chinese products to enter Central and Eastern Europe. In the building one can find the posters of Haier, Gree, Lenovo and other renowned brands. In the Gree showroom, a rice cooker has been the center of attention. One sales staff member said “This is the TOSOT rice cooker that picked up the cooking gauntlet from Japanese products and beat them. It sells reasonably well in Hungary, and that gives us more faith in products 'Made in China'.”

According to the purchasing manager of Office Depot, a Hungarian Company, they have dealt with Chinese suppliers for more than 10 years and the improving quality of “Made in China” products is clearly noticeable. They signed a new contract with a Chinese supplier some time ago at the Foshan Pan Family Life Experience Center in the China Brand Products Exhibition Center and have purchased five freight containers of office furniture for trial sale. The market has responded well, and they are now considering large-scale purchases.

Wu Jiang, CEO of the CECZ, said that more than 200 Chinese companies have entered the China Brand Products Exhibition Center. They have also cooperated with the Department of Commerce of provinces and municipalities in China and hosted more than 10 Chinese product exhibitions. The 2017 China Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary) Exhibition was participated by more than 170 companies from Shandong, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Ningbo and other provinces and cities, with products of 16 categories such as automobiles, motorcycles and spare parts, home kitchens and appliances, machinery and equipment, and daily necessities and foods on display. More than 3,000 buyers from Hungary, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and other countries came to negotiate, signing trade contracts and intentions worth of more than 80 million dollars. Wu, who has been working in Hungary for more than 20 years, said that the Belt and Road Initiative has brought dynamism to Chinese and Hungarian companies, with which they will now "roll up their sleeves and work hard."

The CECZ is a microcosm of the mounting tied economic and trade cooperation between China and Hungary. Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, has stated on many occasions that the establishment of the Belt and Road Initiative poses an opportunity for the development of all countries involved, and that Hungary is willing to actively participate and cooperate. Through joint efforts, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Hungary’s Opening to the East strategy have been deeply connected, creating many firsts of Sino-European cooperation: Hungary is the first European country to sign the Belt and Road Initiative intergovernmental cooperation document with China, the first country to establish and launch the Belt and Road Initiative working group mechanism with China, and the first to issue both panda bonds and dim sum bonds. Since 2016, the two sides have signed a series of documents including the Capacity Development Cooperation Framework Agreement as well as the SME Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding, concocted and implemented in tandem the outlines for the Belt and Road Initiative construction and cooperation program, and conducted close consultations to boost the cooperation of infrastructure construction and e-commerce. In early 2017, a train loaded with Chinese cargo arrived in Budapest from the port of Piraeus in Greece, marking the early harvest of China-Europe land-sea fast transport. As a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern Europe, the Hungary-Cyprus railway epitomizes the unanimity of three countries’ leaders with its progress well underway.

According to statistics, a total of $4.1 billion is invested in Hungarian capital by Chinese enterprises, accounting for half of China’s total investment in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2016, foiled by the backdrop of the ongoing downturn of global economy and trade, bilateral trade volume between China and Hungary amounted to 8.89 billion dollars, rendering a year-on-year increase of 10.1 percent. In the first 11 months of 2017, the bilateral trade volume peaked at a record high at 9.2 billion dollars. Zhou Xinjian, Counsellor of the Commercial Section of the Chinese Embassy in Hungary, quoting Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjártó, said, “He (Szijjártó) looks forward to more Chinese investment to emerge in Hungary. When Chinese companies consider investing in Europe, they hope Hungary can be their first choice. These words embody the genuine desire of all circles in Hungary to bolster cooperation with China."

The Belt and Road Initiative is advocated by China and shared with other Eurasian countries.  Its core philosophy is win-win progress, and it promotes the idea of mutually beneficial economic cooperation. The Opening to the East strategy an economic diplomacy blueprint based on the national conditions of Hungary. The two undertakings are highly compatible, with the ultimate goal of consolidating the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Hungary and to virtually benefit the people thereof, well within reach.