We just got back from Rason, where CE attended the 2nd - and now officially annual - Rason International Trade Fair. Organizers stated that the trade fair had roughly the same number of exhibitors as last year: 130 in 2012 compared to 126 in 2011. There was no complete published list, however.
There was much more retail activity at this year's fair. After experiencing last year, local people clearly realized the fair is an unparalleled opportunity to shop - the equivalent of having a shopping mall come to town for 3 days. One T-shirt company brought a number of shirts to their booth based on his experience last year. They sold out within a few hours and had to spend two days apologizing. Carpets were the hottest seller, with a steady stream being carried out by shoppers.
At the same time, there were probably triple the amount of heavy machines on display as last year. Motorcycles, cars, tractors, trucks and heavy lorries filled the parking lot, which was considerably emptier last year. Hand tractors started at about 1000 USD, while a North Korea-assembled three-wheeler pickup was about 6000 USD, in case you're in the market.
It was slightly more international this year, with Czech, Swedish and Taiwanese companies adding to the milieu. There appeared to be more Russian participants, also.
Overall, Rason is experiencing some positive development, though things are not moving as fast as many would like. Look for a longer report about the past year's changes in Rason soon. We'll also have some pictures up in the next few days.