Moldova is set to export domestic wines to North Korea as it seeks to step up bilateral and potential economic cooperation, according to the Moldovan President Igor Dodon on July 1.
The comments were made by Dodon in a meeting on June 30 with a North Korean delegation led by Ri Su Yong, the former minister for foreign affairs and current chairman of the Diplomatic Commission in the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK).
“Korea has a huge potential for developing commercial ties, being interested in several categories of agricultural products from the Republic of Moldova, especially about the Moldovan wines,” Dodon was quoted as saying in a Presidential press release published on July 1.
“Shortly, the first supplies of Moldovan wine will be exported for the first time in that direction,” he added.
The delegation is in country for the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Party of Socialists in Moldova and according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 2, Ri also held a meeting with Zinaida Grechany – the chairman of the party and the former Prime Minister of Moldova.
The meeting follows the April signing of a cooperation agreement by Ri and Grigore Novac, the vice-chairman of the National Council of the Party of Socialists, according to the Rodong Sinmun.
North Korea, while promoting the establishment of a strong economy on the basis of self reliance, is simultaneously seeking to expand trade ties with foreign countries as part of its five-year economic plan articulated in 2016.
North Korea will aim to “bolster up foreign economic relations to substantially contribute to the building of an economic giant,” a Pyongyang Times article, covering Premier Pak Pong Ju’s report on the plan published in June of 2016, read.
While looking to establish further trade ties with Moldova, North Korea could may have also been seeking to establish a secure and stable supplier of wine to the country.
In European Union (EU) regulations – as with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against North Korea – there is a ban on the exportation of luxury goods to North Korea.
While the UNSC sanctions on luxury goods lists specific products and does not explicitly include types of alcohol, the scope of the sanctions are not “limited to” those goods mentioned in the resolutions.
Annex III of European Council’s Regulation (EC) No 329/2007 however is more specific and prohibits the transfer to North Korea of “high quality wines (including sparkling wines), spirits and spirituous beverages”.
Though the term “high quality” is subject to interpretation as there is no agreed upon definition in the legislation.
Given the Republic of Moldova is not an EU country, the export of wines would not be subject to the potential scrutiny that it would do coming from an EU member state.
Existing trade between North Korea and Moldova remains low, with the DPRK only importing USD$38,000 worth of pharmaceutical products from Moldova between 2000 and 2015, according to the NK Pro trade map.
On the other hand, North Korea exported over USD$2.5 million to Moldova in the same period, with the majority of that trade represented by iron and steel products, vehicles, raw hides, machinery and electronics.
The Diplomatic Commission, for which Ri is Chairman, was set up in 2017 following the fifth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), however the commission has existed before.
According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) the commission existed prior to 1989 and first appeared in the DPRK constitution in 1992, though it was scrapped six years later.
The role of the Diplomatic Commission is to further bilateral relations with other countries and to avoid further isolation.
According to state media, Ri has met with representatives from Sweden, Mongolia and Nepal in 2017, as well as the Chairman of an Italian investment group in Pyongyang.
Featured Image: Moldova Presidential Office
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