The outcome of EU-US free trade talks hangs in the balance and the government will only support an accord that serves Hungarian interests, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has said in a parliamentary debate initiated by the opposition about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), adding the government was closely following ongoing negotiations.
“These talks are highly important because the EU can only be strong if it remains open to cooperation,” Szijjártó (pictured) said. “Shutting the doors would be a bad response in the current situation.” Hungary insisted that the negotiations be transparent.
Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s EU commissioner, said that according to impact studies, the agreement would in general have a favourable effect on the EU’s economic growth. It could trigger a 15-20% increase in Hungarian-US exports in the medium term, a 0.2-0.3% GDP growth and the creation of 20,000-30,000 jobs, Navracsics said.
The opposition Socialists criticised the government for secrecy surrounding talks about the agreement and making related impact studies confidential. Socialist MP Bertalan Tóth accused government representatives of making contradictory statements regarding the agreement. He called for broadening consultations to include civil organisations and ordinary citizens.
Márton Gyöngyösi of the radical nationalist Jobbik party gave warning that the TTIP could be “the last step” in Hungary’s process of “becoming a colony and losing its independence”. Multinational corporations will be able to file legal procedures against states if they see their profits hindered by the states, Gyöngyösi said. As such, Hungary could be taken to court for insisting on remaining GMO-free while Romania could be challenged for refusing to allow cyanide-based technologies in gold mining, he added.
András Schiffer of the green-liberal LMP party said expanding free trade would lead to more global exploitation. What is at stake is nations’ right to self-government, he added. The agreement would protect the privileges of large global businesses and reduce employers’ rights and health protection, endanger environmental safety in the Carpathian Basin and result in drawbacks for small businesses.
Zsuzsanna Szelényi of Együtt, who sits in parliament as an independent, said TTIP would be beneficial to Hungary, setting Europe on a new path that could enhance welfare throughout the continent. The expanding market would give new impetus to growth and employment, Szelényi added. She criticised the government for expressing “differing opinions” on the matter, and opposition parties LMP and Jobbik for their “conspiracy theories”.
The Democratic Coalition fully supports the planned TTIP, deputy party leader Csaba Molnár said. He cited EU research showing that the pact could boost economic performance by an annual 120 billion euros, as well as Hungarian research ordered by the government in 2013 showing that foreign trade between Hungary and the US could increase 15%-20% thanks to the agreement.