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International firms seek to expand business ties with U.N.

September 11, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Hoping to increase their sales to the United Nations, more than 160 firms from about 25 countries are taking part in a trade fair opening today to promote business with U.N. agencies.

The trade show, to run for two days at New York’s Madison Square Garden, features manufacturers of vehicles, medication, communications, construction and water treatment equipment, clothing and a variety of portable structures including shelters, hospitals and bridges.

Participants in the show, now in its fourth year, hope to increase their share of the $12 billion that U.N. agencies spent in 1995 to buy supplies from private companies.

Workers were setting up booths displaying Toyota and Range Rover four-wheel-drive vehicles, South African bulletproof vests, Russian hand pumps and Argentine food supplies.

``It’s just what humanitarian agencies need,″ said Cliff Caunter of Baxter Publishing of Toronto, which organizes the trade fair. ``The only stipulation is no weapons on display. There are other shows for that.″

U.N. operations such as peacekeeping forces, the High Commissioner for Refugees, World Health Organization and World Food Program have been increasing their activity in the world’s trouble spots and are making more purchases from private firms.

O’Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt, the firm that provides the armored protection to the bulky but powerful Humvee vehicle, had three of them on display, including one that was mangled in a land mine explosion, but kept its three occupants unharmed.

``It’s ideal for peacekeeping; it’s less obtrusive than a tank, so less likely to seem threatening to a local populace,″ said Scott-Vogel, O’Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt’s marketing manager.

Range Rover is the No. 2 supplier of four-wheel-drive vehicles to the United Nations after Toyota, displaying its seven-passenger Discovery and five-seat Defender pickup truck.

The British auto maker hopes to increase sales of these models and the brand-new Freelander to the United Nations, which buys some 4,000 all-terrain vehicles a year.

``They’re very much a headline customer,″ said Alan Jones, sales director for international markets. ``You associate the U.N. in the press with people trying to help, and it helps us to put our vehicles on the front line.″

Armscor, a South African military procurement and sales agency, is taking part in the trade show for the first time, representing four firms including manufacturers of gas masks, body armor, mine-clearing equipment and a device that takes a number of body measurements at one time.

``All at once, it measures all the clothes you need to fit you, from shoes and underwear to overcoats and helmets,″ said Armscor’s Johan van Wyk. ``When you get a package of clothes, it WILL fit.″

Another first-time participant is Russia’s Ekont Ltd., a maker of multipurpose hydraulic tools.

``We would like to get good relations between our company and the U.N.,″ said marketing manager Marina Strekalova of Ekont, whose main clients to date have been the Russian Ministries of Interior and Civil Defense.

The firm produces hand-held jacks, cutters and pumps useful for U.N. humanitarian operations such as natural disaster relief.

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