Saturday, August 16, 2014

Xi looks to energy ties on Ulaanbaatar visit

Eyeing cooperation in the energy sector, Chinese President Xi Jinping will embark on a State visit to Mongolia from August 21 to August 22 at the invitation of Mongolian President, foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang announced on Thursday.

It will be Xi's first State visit to Mongolia and his second solo presidential trip since he took office, which observers say indicates the distinctive role Mongolia plays in China's diplomacy.

"Mongolian people have a good impression of Xi," Tsagaan Puntsag, chief of staff of the Office of the President of Mongolia, said during an interview. "His visit will be historic. We believe both countries will reach agreement in many important topics."

China and Mongolia are expected to sign important documents covering areas such as energy, mining and infrastructure, Jigjid Rentsendoo, State Secretary of Mongolia's Ministry of Mining, said during an interview on Tuesday in Ulaanbaatar.

The two countries are also seeking to sign an initial agreement on a gas project which includes construction of two coal-to-gas plants with 95 percent of the output going to China through pipelines, according to Erdenebulgan Oyun, vice-minister of Mining, the Bloomberg reported.

Transportation will be another important subject during Xi's visit, as Mongolia would like to discuss access to more Chinese harbors, said Tsagaan, who declined to give more details.

China currently allows Mongolia to use its Tianjin port so that the country can trade its goods with other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

"It is very important for Mongolia to ship its coal to other markets through the sea," said Jigjid."We believe that Xi's visit will push for cooperation in that field."

Coal comprises a big part of Mongolia's export revenue and the country has been seeking to expand its coal exports to countries other than China.

Xi's trip will come roughly two weeks ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Mongolia in early September.

Bordered by Russia in the north and China in the south, Mongolia is landlocked and relies heavily on its two neighbors for access to ports.

Bilateral trade between China and Mongolia has reached some $6 billion in 2013. China has long been Mongolia's biggest trading partner and a major source of foreign investment.

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