Singapore and Hungary will work towards the swift ratification of a major free trade pact between the European Union and Singapore, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said on Tuesday.
"We believe that this agreement will be very important to further boost trade, not only between Hungary and Singapore but between Asia and Europe," Dr Tan said after meeting his Hungarian counterpart Janos Ader.
"President Ader and I have agreed that we will work to see that this agreement is ratified expeditiously."
Speaking at a joint press appearance with President Ader in Sandor Palace, Dr Tan also thanked Hungary for its "strong support" in the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
The President was on the first day of a seven-day state visit to Hungary and the Slovak Republic.
The EU-Singapore trade pact will eliminate import tariffs and make it easier for firms to enter the respective markets, among other benefits. It is set to be signed next year, and will then be presented to the European Parliament for ratification.
Dr Tan, who is accompanied by a business delegation, said there is great interest among Singapore companies to do business in Hungary, because of its high educational base, connectivity with Europe, and pro-trade policies.
Hungary is Singapore's 14th largest trading partner in the EU. Trade between the two countries was $1.09 billion last year.
Besides strengthening economic ties, there is also potential to collaborate in scientific research, environmental issues and tourism, said both heads of state.
Bilateral relations are "already very good", but Dr Tan said the discussions helped identify several areas where even more can be done. These include water management and sustainable development.
President Ader also noted that biotechnology, food industry and pharmaceuticals could be areas of greater collaboration.
Both presidents agreed that their countries could also strengthen existing ties in academic research. Hungary has produced 14 Nobel laureates.
At the people-to-people level, educational exchanges can lay the groundwork for future collaboration, while tourism can improve cultural understanding, added Dr Tan.
One future visitor to Singapore might be President Ader himself. Dr Tan extended an invitation to him to see how Singapore has developed since his previous visit in 2006.
"I hope that we will be able to reciprocate his hospitality," said Dr Tan.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.