"The Embassy of Hungary in Beirut facilitates the communication and helps to establish connection between Lebanese and Hungarian companies in order to improve the commercial activity between the two countries,” said the First Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Hungary in Lebanon to ifpinfo. "Also, due to the distance and the different business culture, it is important to assist both Lebanese and Hungarian firms in understanding the differing regulations and to help in solving the emerging misunderstandings,” he added.
To shed the light on Lebanese and Hungarian trade relations and Hungary’s participation in Project Lebanon 2017, ifpinfo had the following interview with Dr. Károly BENES, First Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Hungary in Lebanon.
Q. How does the Embassy of Hungary in Beirut help in promoting Hungarian companies in general?
A. It is important to note that last year the Hungarian National Trading House – which is an umbrella organization representing several Hungarian companies in various sectors – opened up its Lebanese branch in Beirut, the Kaleco Hungarian Trade House (http://buyfromhungary.org/). The local employees in the Beirut office are of a great help in improving the business ties. Due to their expertise of the Lebanese market environment, they are able to assist their partners with the latest information and evaluate the viability of emerging business opportunities.
Q. What are the advantages of participating in exhibitions under your umbrella?
A. Since Hungarian companies are less aware of Lebanese business opportunities, it is of utmost importance to provide them with the necessary information and appropriate contacts in Lebanon in order to inspire them to explore this new market. Through participating in exhibitions, our Embassy and the Hungarian National Trading House provide a unique possibility for the involved companies to make an appearance in the Lebanese market, taking over the expenses related to the participation.
Q. What assistance and services do you provide to exhibitors?
A. The Kaleco Hungarian Trade House and the Embassy of Hungary in Beirut provide a free opportunity to exhibit under their umbrella in the largest Lebanese exhibitions. The involved companies are only asked to provide their written materials, brochures, etc. and in certain cases samples of their products. Other details of the participation are arranged by the Trade House and the Embassy.
Q. Have you organized a country pavilion in any of IFP Group shows in general and what was the outcome?
A. It is the first time a Hungarian company participates in Project Lebanon.
Q. What is the trade value between your country and the countries where IFP organizes shows like Lebanon, Qatar, Egypt and Iraq?
A. Naturally, Egypt is the largest trading partner of Hungary among these four countries due to the size of the Egyptian market. According to the latest yearly data, Hungary exported 269,5 million USD value of products to Egypt while the value of imports were 19,9 million USD in 2015.
Iraq has a special status, because with a relatively modest Hungarian export (29,6 million USD) it is the only country in the region having a trade surplus (389 million USD Hungarian import) due to the oil industry.
Not counting the oil industry, I would consider Lebanon as the second most important trading partner of Hungary (58,3 million USD export and 367 000 USD import in 2015). It is worth to note that the Lebanese Customs has a different data (116,2 million USD Hungarian export and 281 000 USD import from Lebanon in 2015), which is probably due to the distribution role of Beirut port. A part of the Hungarian products are shipped to other countries as final destinations in the Middle East through Lebanese ports, thus they are not calculated in Hungarian statistics.
Qatar has a lesser role in trading with 32,9 million USD Hungarian export and 110 000 USD import in 2015.
Q. How do you asses the Lebanese market?
A. Because of the challenges that the industrial sector faces in Lebanon, particularly in food industry, the country has accumulated a significant trade deficit, which creates an opportunity for Hungarian companies to penetrate the market.
As a matter of fact, Lebanon is not a traditional trading partner of Hungary, therefore, lots of undiscovered possibilities are there to be considered mainly in the food industry and construction sector, although the fierce competition and the distance between our countries allow only the most skillful Hungarian companies to enter the Lebanese market.
Q. How do you evaluate your country’s participation in this year’s edition of Project Lebanon next May?
A. I hope the Hungarian participation in Project Lebanon opens up new business opportunities for both Hungarian and Lebanese companies. I don’t expect any spectacular breakthrough, given that it is the very first year that we participate, but in my view building long lasting business ties requires a steady and persistent work and involvement that will sooner or later lead to a fruitful cooperation.
Photo (in the middle: H.E. László Váradi, former Hungarian ambassador to Lebanon, on the left: Mr. Alpaslan Kaya, CEO of Kaleco Trade House and honorary consul of Hungary in Turkey, on the right: Dr. Károly Benes, commercial attaché)