EU Chamber of Commerce promotes DPRK “PITIE” fair

It is called the Pyongyang International Technology and Infrastructure Exhibition (PITIE).  I am not sure that is the most productive acronym, and it is not to be confused with the Pyongyang International Trade Fair

Korea Times
EU Promotes Pyongyang Trade Fair
Jan Jettel, Staff Reporter

Despite mounting international tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear arms program, preparations for an international trade fair in Pyongyang later this year have shifted into high gear.

The Pyongyang International Technology and Infrastructure Exhibition is scheduled from Oct, 31 to Nov. 3 in the Kimjongilia exhibition hall in Pyongyang. The exhibition is mainly for companies from the manufacturing sector.

The last exhibition in 2002 had 70 participating companies, representing 10 different countries. The project is heavily promoted by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK).

“The objective of the EUCCK in participating in such an exhibition is to demonstrate to the local visitors that there is an alternative to cheap quality Chinese products,’’ said Jean-Jacques Grauhar, chairman of the EUCCK North Korea Committee, in a Korea Times interview.

Grauhar at the same time admitted the political delicacy of the exhibition. “Obviously the current nuclear crisis is not favorable for this exhibition. The U.S. is also exercising pressure on some European companies to limit their contacts with North Korea, in line with their strategy to isolate the country,’’ he said.

Europe, however, will not bend to U.S. pressure, according to Grauhar. “Twenty-three out of 25 EU member states have full-fledged diplomatic relations with North Korea, some of them even have embassies in Pyongyang. The EU’s engagement policy of North Korea still prevails, and this exhibition can be considered an important part of it.’’

Peter Bialas of Messe Munich International, the Germany-based company that organizes the fair, called the U.S. stance on North Korea “completely hypocritical. How can the U.S. demand a change in North Korea and at the same time block all interactions of North Korea with the outside world that might or might not bring about such change?’’ he asked.

Bialas and Grauhar agreed that while head offices of multinational companies have expressed their concerns about the exhibition, their branches in Korea do not feel disturbed by the crisis as they are more familiar with the whole policy environment on the Korean peninsula.

Bialas also said that German companies showed a particular interest in the exhibition because “experience in dealing with East Germany has shown them that companies can successfully do business with one another even if they operate in countries with different political systems. In the end it’s about business, not politics,’’ he added.

However, there will be no American companies taking part in the fair. ‘’There are no legal restrictions prohibiting American companies from visiting North Korea, however, given the current political climate with a missile on the launch pad, I don’t think US firms would be interested in visiting at this time.

“If North Korea were to remove the missile and return to the six-party talks and it appeared there would be some predictability in their actions, I believe there might be some interest. But at the present time, I am afraid I don’t see much hope,’’ said Tami Overby, president of AMCHAM, the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

Local businesses were also skeptical about the fair. “In principle, North Korea and particularly the Kaesong Complex would be very interesting for us, but the political climate is just too unstable at the moment for us to consider investment there,’’ said the CEO of a German multinational company in Seoul on condition of anonymity. He added that “the situation would probably be better if the U.S. stopped bullying North Korea and interfering on the Korean peninsula.’’

This comes at a time when the two Koreas are trying to improve relations. Recently, a group of ambassadors visited the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea to attract investment in the project.

Earlier this month, the 12th round of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee met on Cheju Island to discuss South Korean economic aid to the North.

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