Opinion: Aftermath of the Russian President's visit in Mongolia

During recent visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Mongolia, President Elbegdorj Tsakhia mentioned about huge trade gap between Russia and Mongolia. In 2008 alone, Mongolia bought $ 1.2 billion worth goods and products from Russia and in return Russia bought only $ 86 million worth goods and products from Mongolia.

Mongolia gets 98 percent of its petroleum needs from Russia and therefore, most of the import were petroleum products.Russia, traditional market for Mongolian meat and animal skin and hides and leather products during the Soviet era, set strict veterinary and customs tax barrier for Mongolian meat and animal products and made it practically impossible for Mongolian businesses to export Mongolian goods to Russian market.President Elbegdorj highlighted this huge trade gap during the visit of Russian head of state and said this should be resolved. Russia, a country not member of WTO have high customs and import taxes. In the past, Russian state have used Mongolian oil dependence from Russia as a political tool and leverage to keep its influence in Mongolia.

It is even difficult for ordinary Mongolians to get visa to go to Russia. Russian visas are to be obtained from middlemen with connection to Russian Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. Russian racism and xenophobia makes it one of least visited countries by Mongolians. Compared to Russia, China is the very business-friendly and welcoming country for Mongolia. Chinese attitude is like " come, come and buy from us." Mongolians can travel to China without visa for 30 days. Just get in train heading to China and that is it. Very easy compared to Russia.Despite deep cultural links between Mongolia and Russia dating to Soviet era, common understanding and people's diplomacy between Russians and Mongolians are minimum.

It takes common people to develop and strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between countries. Unless, Russia change its attitude towards Mongolia and consider it as equal partner, no real progress can be made despite signing "strategic partnership" documents by leaders of two countries. Russia needs to take concrete steps towards improving relationship between the two countries.

By Ganbat, reporter of MonInfo, news service
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