Eager partners in Eastern Europe

On a 10-day trip to Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics, Singapore firms found eager partners in a region not yet overrun with competitors.

Yang Kee Logistics will appoint three logistics agents it met in Budapest and Prague. Its deputy managing director Ken Koh was part of a 22-member group led by the Singapore Business Federation which accompanied President Tony Tan Keng Yam on his state visit that ended on Monday.

The European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) is set to save European Union and Singapore firms some ¤290 million ($489 million) in business costs each year and boost trade.

Al Noor International managing director Sheikh Babu Nooruddin found opportunities for trading firms such as his, with producers seeking agents in Asia and hoping to use Singapore as a springboard.

Mr Peter Korbacka, partner of major Slovak investment group J&T, said the region has lower labour costs than Western Europe and infrastructure which is just as good.

The process of setting up a business is now quicker and more efficient, added the honorary business representative of Singapore in the Slovak Republic.

At a forum in Bratislava on Tuesday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the EUSFTA would remove non-tariff barriers, such as additional testing requirements for electronic products.

Electronics, infocomm and automotive sectors are among the region's major industries.

It was the latter that attracted Griffin Group International, which makes fuel filters for vehicle and marine engines. Managing director Mei Reading is now in "serious talks" with two firms she met there, and might end up supplying die-casting parts to some factories in Hungary.

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