Trade pact with China offers Mongolia chance to diversify, develop its economy

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/10 22:08:40

The Mongolian economy has been performing better than expected, and a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with China may offer additional momentum for Mongolia's economic resurgence.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for initiating a feasibility study on a China-Mongolia FTA and speeding up the construction of a cross-border economic cooperation zone, the Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. The two countries have also agreed to link the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative with Mongolia's Prairie Road development initiative to benefit people on both sides.

In May 2017, the IMF gave its approval to a total financial package worth around $5.5 billion for Mongolia, which revived the indebted nation's economy.

Now that there are signs of an economic recovery, Mongolian authorities need to shift their focus from a bailout program to long-term sustainable policies to fire up economic growth, and that's where China comes in.

Mongolia signed an FTA with Japan in 2015 but the deal has yet to play a great role in Mongolia's economy because the value of bilateral trade is relatively low. But the situation will be different for the FTA with China.

According to Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Qian Keming, China's trade with Mongolia reached $4.6 billion in 2016, accounting for 60 percent of Mongolia's total merchandise trade. If most of those goods can enjoy zero-tariff access to China's market, Mongolia's exports will gain momentum and shore up its economic growth.

Mongolia mainly exports natural resources, fur and raw materials to China, while it imports diesel fuel, machinery and equipment. In May 2016, China and Mongolia formally agreed on a comprehensive plan for an economic cooperation zone that straddles the border, which is intended to be an all-inclusive platform integrating international trade, logistics and e-commerce.

The composition of bilateral trade will be diversified if the two countries speed up the building of economic cooperation zones and focus more on areas such as energy, resource processing and equipment manufacturing.

Mongolia is sandwiched between China and Russia, and it is also an important transit country along the transcontinental railway connecting China with countries in Europe. The FTA and economic cooperation zones will help the landlocked nation convert its regional advantages into an export-oriented economy.

The China-Mongolia FTA is likely to be an engine of Mongolia's export growth. With the B&R initiative, China hopes to shore up free trade and let economies along the route share the dividends of China's economic growth.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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