Nearly three months have passed since the new Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister J.Erdenebat, was formed. Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations B.Battsetseg spoke in length about Mongolia’s foreign relations and activities conducted in the past three months.
What have you been doing since your appointment as Deputy Foreign Minister?
As the economy is facing difficulties, the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MFR) is actively working to regain investors’ trust and support measures to improve the economic situation. The ministry is quite busy right now.
Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil has been working on weekends since he took office in July 25. Our main focus has been on identifying urgent problems, finding solutions as quickly as possible and determining measures to take through the Government Action Plan, which is to be implemented for the next four years.
The Government Action plan specifies 13 issues related to foreign relations. What instructions has the government given to the MFR?
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat has ordered us to focus on three areas. Firstly, we must focus on increasing political relations and negotiations with economic contents. Our ministry was originally named the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but it was changed to the MFR as foreign economic relation and foreign trade policies were added to our responsibility. Hence, our focal point has shifted to intermediating between Mongolian entrepreneurs and foreign partners, and promoting the nation as a reliable partner.
Secondly, the MRF will concentrate on creating favorable conditions in foreign markets through a national brand. The last focus area is to protect the rights and interests of Mongolians living and studying abroad and provide opportunities for them to use and contribute the knowledge and skills they acquired abroad for Mongolia’s development. The 13 issues specified in the Government Action Plan are connected to these areas. In terms of quantity, it might seem few but these issues require considerable amount of work in terms of content and policy.
Foreign investment in Mongolia has drastically dropped in recent years. What is the MFR doing to boost foreign investment and improve Mongolia’s credibility?
We’re paying attention to establishing and implementing trade and economic cooperation with foreign countries both internationally and regionally. I’ve met with countless foreign guests since my appointment as deputy minister. Most of them emphasized the importance of a stable legal environment for attracting investors so we started a few projects aimed to ensure stability in the legal environment.
For example, we finalized the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and inked it during the state visit by Canadian House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan. This agreement provides equal rights for local and foreign investors and offers investment conditions that don’t fall short of international conventions and agreements.
Twenty investment related articles were added to the Economic Cooperation Agreement established between Mongolia and Japan. In accordance with these articles, investors of both countries will have the same rights and obligations. We have agreed to enforce domestic laws and legislations in specific areas to invest in.
The MFR is also paying attention to the implementation of the Transparency Agreement, established between Mongolia and the USA in 2015. The Mongolian side agreed to upload draft bills on the www.legalinfo.mn website to ensure that changes in investment laws and regulations are transparent.
…Protecting the rights and interests of every Mongolian citizen has been underlined as an extremely important matter in the 2016-2020 Government Action Plan of the newly formed government. The ministry is actively protecting the rights and interests of Mongolians living abroad through 46 diplomatic missions and consular offices…
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat and Minister of Foreign relations Ts.Munkh-Orgil recently visited Japan. How significant was this state visit? Have any noteworthy negotiations been made?
Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil made his first state visits to Japan and the Republic of Korea, which are very important partner countries in the Northeast Asian region. We’re expanding strategic partnership with Japan and comprehensive partnership with the Republic of Korea. The Foreign Relations Minister’s visit aimed to prepare for the Prime Minister’s state visit, which took place from October 12 to 15.
This was the first state visit made by the new Prime Minister. Prime Minister J.Erdenebat made efforts to expand relations through negotiations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This time’s state visit aimed to start negotiations for expanding Mongolia-Japan relations and cooperation, further develop friendly ties between Mongolian and Japanese people, and deepen cooperation between the two nations’ private sectors. Personally, I consider the Prime Minister’s state visit successful because initial targets were met. The Mongolia-Japan Trade and Investment Forum, was successfully held in Tokyo with participation of over 200 Japanese and 50 Mongolian entrepreneurs.
Prime Minister Abe promised to continue to support Mongolia’s sustainable development and commended projects the Mongolian government is undertaking for supporting investment and recovering investors’ trust. He also said that he will personally take part in researching areas to cooperate with Mongolia.
Mongolia and Japan will study opportunities to establish an agreement on mutually supplementing the production of value-added products, introduce Japanese technology to Mongolia’s mining industry, and develop Mongolia’s agriculture sector. The two sides also discussed the 45th anniversary of Mongolia-Japan diplomatic relations.
Mongolia’s Energy Resources LLC and Japanese Sumitomo Corporation signed a cooperation memorandum on coal sales and marketing during Prime Minister J.Erdenebat’s state visit. Coal exporting opportunities are opening. Will the coal exports to Japan be washed before shipment? When will the terms for a transit railway across China be settled?
A memorandum of understanding was established between companies of the two nations. In other words, the government didn’t get involved in the process at all.
As stated in the memorandum, Energy Resources LLC and Sumimoto Corporation will organize a trial shipment of coal from Tavan Tolgoi mine in the first phase and supply coal which meet relevant standards to Japanese and Korean markets in the long run.
We could expect Mongolia to supply coal to these markets for a long time if things work out.
Mongolia established its first free trade agreement with Japan, which became effective this year. Do you expect this agreement to impact on bringing large changes to foreign trade and investment?
The purpose of establishing a free trade agreement is to boost trade and investment processes, reduce burden and obstacles, and increase trade circulation and investment. The agreement made with Japan is the first free trade agreement Mongolia has ever established. It will be significant for boosting trade and investment with Japan, and for joining the economic integration. The agreement came into force on June 7, 2016. Right now, it’s a little too early to evaluate or see any result.
However, the study we conducted before signing the agreement estimated that trade between Mongolia and Japan would jump by up to 65 percent and Mongolia’s export volume would increase by up to five percent by 2020. Japan inked free trade agreements with Mexico, the Philippines and Singapore. As a result, Japan’s foreign investment increased by two to three percent, according to analysis.
What measures is the MFR taking to protect the interests and rights of Mongolians living abroad? Is it true that increasing number of Mongolians are committing or being associated with criminal activities overseas?
At present, over 130,000 Mongolians are living, working or studying abroad in 58 countries. These people are Mongolian representatives and envoys who are contributing greatly in our country’s development and their families’ lives.
Protecting the rights and interests of every Mongolian citizen has been underlined as an extremely important matter in the 2016-2020 Government Action Plan of the newly formed government. The ministry is actively protecting the rights and interests of Mongolians living abroad through 46 diplomatic missions and consular offices.
Through this objective, we plan to have our consular offices meet with consular offices of China, the Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan and Turkey, where many Mongolians reside. The meeting is intended to improve relations between consular offices and expand cooperation mechanisms with foreign consular offices.
The MFR successfully organized the second forum for Mongolians living abroad and Mongolian NGOs abroad in September, and several cooperation negotiations were held with associations of Mongolian citizens living abroad. We’re exerting effort to protect the rights of our people serving sentences in other countries and we will continue to do so. Exactly 163 Mongolian citizens are currently serving sentences in 13 countries. Besides these people, there are 270 Mongolians being detained by foreign police organizations. The ministry can address the issue to bring these people back to Mongolia only if a proposal is submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs. This year, we brought back a Mongolian citizen who had been sentenced to prison in another country for a drug related crime. At the moment, we’re discussing the transfer of another Mongolian convict in another country.
At present, Mongolia established prisoner transfer agreements with eight countries. According to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, members of the council can use the multilateral mechanist to transfer prisoners in 27 member states and 19 non-member states.
Has any other state visit been scheduled for the Minister of Foreign Relations?
Minister of Foreign Relations Ts.Munkh-Orgil will participate in the second meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Mongolian government from November 1 to 3.