Japan, Mongolia to launch talks on free trade agreement


Mongolia's Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda at the latter's official residence in Tokyo, March 12, 2012. (AP Photos/Kim Kyung-Hoon, Pool)
Mongolia's Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda at the latter's official residence in Tokyo, March 12, 2012. (AP Photos/Kim Kyung-Hoon, Pool)
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Mongolia said Monday they will begin negotiating for the fast-growing north Asian nation's first bilateral free trade agreement.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Mongolian counterpart Sukhbaatar Batbold also agreed that the two countries will boost cooperation in the development of natural resources and infrastructure, according to a joint announcement released after their meeting in Tokyo.
Mongolia, whose economy grew 17.3 percent in 2011, has no FTAs with other countries. Japan is keen on working more closely with Mongolia as the fast-growing country has abundant natural resources, including coal, copper, uranium and rare earth minerals.
Batbold, who is on a six-day visit to Japan from Saturday, told Noda that Mongolia will ensure Japanese companies' participation in developing the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the south Gobi desert, one of the world's largest deposits of high-quality coal, the announcement said.
Batbold told reporters that his meeting with Noda was "very fruitful for the strategic partnership" of the two countries, achieving an important "first step" in promoting bilateral trade and investment.
In 2010, Japan's exports to Mongolia, mainly cars and other industrial products, amounted to 13.97 billion yen, while its imports from the resource-rich country stood at only 2.09 billion yen.
Japan and Mongolia mark this year the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.
The Japanese government believes that Mongolia, which is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, is increasingly vital also in terms of diplomatic and security policies.
The two countries had aimed to enter FTA talks a year ago, but efforts stalled as the government led by Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, was thrown into turmoil after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that hit the country's northeastern region and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.
Japan, one of the major donors for Mongolia, also said it will provide a total of about 2.74 billion yen in aid to help the emerging country's development.
Of the total, 1.55 billion yen will be provided under a low-interest loan package and the rest are grant-aid programs.
Source:Mainichi Japan) March 13, 2012
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