With about Dh82 million earmarked for Expo 2020, Poland hopes the six-month-long exhibition will serve as a better gateway to the UAE and Middle Eastern markets, opening doors for lasting commercial ties.
Although diplomatic relations between Poland and the UAE were established 27 years ago, bilateral trade clocks only about $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) a year. Food, furniture and luxury boats make up the chunk of Poland’s exports, accounting for just $550 million.
“Exports to the UAE are below our expectations,” says Tomasz Pisula, President of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PITA), which is also responsible for Poland’s participation in Expo 2020.
Penetrating the highly competitive UAE market hasn’t been easy for Polish exporters. Though quality has never been a problem for Polish products, says Pisula, positioning them right on the price scale in new markets has been tricky.
“About 81 per cent of everything we export goes to the wealthy market or the EU,” he explains. “Thirty per cent of our exports end up in Germany alone - we are the production centre for the German economy.
“But this comes at a certain cost. We get little brand recognition.
“Poles recognise Polish brands and they tend to pay more knowing that it’s made in Poland. However, customers in Dubai, China or Kenya might not be willing to do that for the Made in Poland label. We are not there yet.
“Our long-term strategic goal is to change this situation.”
For the time being, however, PITA’s focus is on Expo 2020 and how it can help Polish products and technologies make inroads into the UAE and the wider region.
The fact that English is the second language of choice in Poland should help matters along when it comes to doing business with the Gulf and beyond.
“At the Expo, we want to highlight Polish culture but at the same time we want to show how modern and advanced Poland is in terms of production and technology,” says Pisula.
At the Expo, we want to highlight Polish culture but at the same time we want to show how modern and advanced Poland is in terms of production and technology.
Polish presence at the exhibition, which starts on October 20, 2020 and runs until April 10, 2021, is expected to include IT/ICT, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, health services, construction and finishing of buildings, yachts and recreational boats, furniture, tourism, fashion, cosmetics and food. Companies from all 16 regions of the EU’s eighth-largest economy will also be a part of the programme.
Efforts are also on to increase visibility and awareness of Polish companies in the region in the run-up to Expo 2020. Last month, PITA set up a national stand at the Big 5 in Dubai to promote the Polish construction industry. From innovative wooden washbasins and garden pools to construction chemicals and tools, a wide variety of products and services from 39 companies were on display.
Trade fairs and shows lined up with PITA presence for next year include Arab Health in January, Dubai Boat Show in February-March, Middle East Pharma Cold Chain Congress in March, BeautyWorld Middle East in April and Index International Design in September.
Meanwhile, back home, the trade agency is in the process of identifying 50 partners that will be responsible for setting up and maintaining the Polish pavilion, which was revealed in October. Keeping in with Expo 2020’s subthemes of mobility and sustainability, the winning pavilion captures the idea of migratory birds that breed in Poland in flight. The public tender for its construction will be issued next month.
Poland has a track record of building eye-catching and intriguing pavilions at world exhibitions. At Expo 2010 in Shanghai, its pavilion, a nod to the Polish folk art of paper cut-outs built on the theme of Better city, better life, won the best prize for design.
This time around, the emphasis is on offering a tranquil space for contemplation and observation.
And all Pisula wants, come 2020, is for people visiting the pavilion to realise that Poland is a technically sophisticated country that is worth more than just a cursory visit.
“I want to showcase Poland as a fairly sophisticated, technologically advanced place with a great environment and fun people,” he says. “Then I think the money would follow.”