With a few strokes of a pen and scant detail offered, Gov. Jim Justice entered West Virginia into a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to foster economic cooperation between the state and Hungary.
The MOU, issued in a news release after a media event Tuesday, does not specify any projects or investments between West Virginia and Hungary.
Instead, it offers a loose agreement for both parties to promote “the expansion and diversification of mutually advantageous cooperation,” to exchange information on development priorities, and other similar aims.
At the event held at the Capitol, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjarto, said Hungarian companies in industries including information technology, defense, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing would establish operations in West Virginia.
He estimated the deliverance of a couple hundred jobs.
“Today, I am meeting three companies already about how to improve the cooperation from the field of software engineering, pharmaceutical and chemical,” he said. “What I can tell you is we have two companies from Hungary which have already been carrying out negotiations about location production and development facilities here.”
Likewise, Justice offered vague detail about the agreement. He said all parties are “close” to settling on a site location within an hour of Charleston.
There have been preliminary negotiations regarding various financial incentives for the Hungarian companies, Justice said, but nothing has been finalized.
“We have discussed different things,” he said. “We have not obligated ourselves thus far, but I would be an advocate that we need to do any and everything we possibly can within the realms of reasonableness and everything to try to incentivize any and everybody to come here.”
West Virginia is the third state to sign an agreement with Hungary, after Indiana and Ohio, according to Szijjarto. Following the event, Szijjarto embarked on a tour of meetings with Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Dow Chemical and Azmuith, a company whose website describes it as a software engineering contractor for the Department of Defense.
This isn’t the first MOU that Justice has touted between West Virginia, a foreign nation and purported investment into the Mountain State.
In November 2017, the state Department of Commerce announced a China-owned energy company would invest $83.7 billion into West Virginia, “the largest investment in our state’s history,” Justice said. The investment has yet to materialize.
The state still has yet to publicly release the China Energy MOU, prompting a lawsuit against West Virginia University for failing to provide records related to the deal upon request.
Justice dismissed any comparison between the Hungary MOU and the China Energy MOU. He said the political climate between the U.S. and Hungary is amiable, unlike that of the U.S. and China. Likewise, he pointed to a tariff fight going on between the U.S. — as forwarded by President Donald Trump, an ally of Justice — and China.
“Any and all of us know the situation that’s going on today with China,” Justice said. “For anybody out there that’s disappointed, I think their disappointment is totally unfair.”
As to whether a tariff target may fall on Hungary’s back next, Szijjarto, in an interview after the event, declined to comment.
“We have a saying in Hungary,” he said. “Whenever elephants are dancing, the mouse should step away.”