Hungary sets sights on China's high-speed rail tech

08:32, March 01, 2011      

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Hungary hopes to see China's high-speed trains running on its rail network, Hungarian National Development Minister Tamas Fellegi said on Saturday, while denying recent reports that Beijing would buy Budapest's debt.

"Last time we were in China, in Beijing, we were shown several projects that would include high-speed trains in Hungary, for instance between the airport and downtown Budapest," Fellegi told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

Hungary's interest comes as China exports its high-speed trains to many countries around the world. Building a 1,000-km high-speed railway was part the multibillion deals signed last week in Beijing between the presidents of Kazakhstan and China.

Fellegi visited Beijing in early December, when he met officials from commerce and railways ministries.

The trade volume between China and Hungary reached $8.72 billion in 2010, up 28 percent compared to 2009, according to Chinese Customs.

Fellegi added that Hungary and China have been "discussing long-term financial cooperation", but denied recent reports that China may buy its bonds.

"I had never said that China would buy Hungarian debt," he said, insisting what he said was his government is "negotiating with Chinese banks and the Chinese government about future financial cooperation".

Earlier reports, at the end of last year, quoted Fellegi as saying China may buy Hungary's debt, as a result of a meeting between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Shanghai in October.

According to those reports, the funding may range from China's central bank taking part in Hungarian debt auctions to State-owned Chinese companies financing specific projects, such as railway development.

"The reports are not true," Fellegi responded, saying what he can confirm is that "we have been discussing long-term financial cooperation".

"We are discussing. While we are negotiating I won't say anything because then it would be misunderstood," he added.

Moreover, Fellegi said: "We also have ideas about logistics centers in Hungary with China's participation and building a cargo airport which would be a very important development in the country and Eastern Europe, because that would be an excellent location to have a logistics center for Chinese goods and products to be distributed in Europe."

In addition to these projects, the Hungarian government hopes to cooperate with China in informatics and IT infrastructure.

"We see that Huawei is investing in Hungary, creating the possibility of a long-term presence in the country, and we support it. So we see ICT (information and communications) technology, infrastructure development, and hopefully, at the end of the day, we will have financial cooperation as well," he said.

Huawei, the world's second-largest telecoms equipment maker, has an assembly plant and a logistics center in Hungary.

Like many of its neighbors, Hungary is keen to attract Chinese investment.

China's Wanhua Industrial Group acquired full control of Hungarian isocyanate maker BorsodChem for 1.2 billion euros ($1.72 billion) in early February.

Isocyanates are chemicals used in the manufacturing of flexible and rigid foams, fibers and coatings, and are increasingly used in the automobile industry.

This is the largest investment a Chinese company has made so far in Hungary.

In Hungary, Fellegi is called "Mr China" for being responsible in the government for the Chinese relationship.

He has been to China four times since he was appointed head of the newly formed Ministry of National Development last May.

"I like China very much," he said, adding that China's combination of ancient culture and modernity greatly impressed him.

"China is a marvelous country with a very long history and an absolutely marvelous culture, so I admire the country. I admire the culture, and I also admire all the efforts China has made to develop such a strong economy as we see in the world today," he said.

By Zhang Chunyan and Zhang Haizhou, China Daily
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