Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mongolia preps rail agreements

President urges two countries to step up partnership

Mongolia and China are ready to sign a series of agreements on cross-border transportation, railways and access to ports. Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Mongolia this week to step up Sino-Mongolian relations, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said during an interview.

Xi is scheduled to embark on his first State visit on August 21 to Mongolia since taking office. It will be his second solo presidential trip after his one-stop visit to South Korea in July, a rare gesture that signals Mongolia's geopolitical importance to China.

In a group interview on Friday with several Chinese media outlets, Elbegdorj said the two countries will step up their partnership.

Elbegdorj summarizes the partnership as spanning five aspects - increasing mutual trust, expanding cooperation in the field of security, improving transportation and infrastructure, enhancing multilateral cooperation and boosting bilateral trade. "Agreements in energy, mining, infrastructure and culture will also be signed," said the Mongolian president.

Bordered by Russia in the North and China in the south, Mongolia is landlocked and has traditionally maneuvered between the great powers.

To diversify its diplomacy, Mongolia has adopted a Third Neighbor Policy in recent years when the country seek to develop relations with countries like the US and Japan.

"Mongolia's Third Neighbor Policy does not imply countering or balancing relations with the two neighboring states. I believe China will understand Mongolia's policy to develop equal relations with different counties," said Elbegdorj.

"For Mongolia, developing friendly and cooperative relations with two neighboring countries is our top objective in foreign policy," said Elbegdorj.

Speaking on the economy, Elbegdorj said Mongolia relies too much on the exportation of mineral products and the country should diversify its revenue.

"It is in our best interests to process agricultural and mineral products before selling them," he said.

Mongolia is rich in mineral resources, and a large part of its export revenue depends on coal exports. Mongolia is actively seeking more access to ports to expand its oversea markets.

The Mongolian government has also submitted a draft bill to the country's parliament, proposing construction of several railroads using an international narrow gauge, a standard also adopted by China.

Building standard gauge railroads could significantly increase exports to China, Mongolia's biggest trading partner and one of its main sources of investment.

Elbegdorj said that the unique geographical position of Mongolia makes it the shortest passageway from Asia to Europe.

"There is great potential for China, Mongolia and Russia to cooperate on railways," Elbegdorj said.

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