Mongolia Foreign Minister: We Prioritize Ties with Russia and China

ULAANBAATAR – Mongolia can now be considered “locked in” between two great powers as Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsendiyn Munkh-Orgil acknowledged in an interview with EFE, adding that ties with Russia and China are still priorities, though relations with the US and EU will also continue.

Munkh-Orgil, a lawyer trained in Moscow and at Harvard, has been leading Mongolian diplomacy since July 2016 from his office at the ministry’s headquarters, one of the many Soviet-styled buildings still preserved in the capital.

Mongolia, whose economy has mainly been supported over the past decade by mining, reached 17 percent growth annually. However, like other countries dependent on raw materials, the industry has been in crisis due to low international prices.

“It is an open secret that we are facing a very difficult economic and fiscal situation” admitted the minister, who did not only blame the falling commodity prices for the situation but also “a lack of consistent strategic economic management and lack of structural reforms that should have been done quite some time ago.”

Munkh-Orgil has been in office since the victory in last year’s elections of the ex-communist and now social-democrat Mongolian People’s Party, which had been in the opposition for the past four years.

“This government inherited serious budget deficits, ballooning foreign debts” and an unsustainable economy, he said, adding that the government of Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat is trying to steer the course with spending cuts and negotiation of international financial assistance.

“I am optimistic that in the next few days, Mongolia and international financial institutions (including the International Monetary Fund) will be able to come up with a positive announcement” of these negotiations, he said.

Munkh-Orgil proudly recalled that “it is not that Mongolia was subjugated or was dependent on the superpowers, there was quite an extended period of time in history that we were the dominant party,” a reference to the time of Genghis Khan, the founder of the second largest empire in history.

Although Mongolia has, since the fall of its communist regime in 1990, celebrated its independence after living 50 years in the Soviet Union’s orbit, Munkh-Orgil recognized that “there is a clear-cut priority in our foreign policy to develop friendly relations with China and Russia.”

It does not have to be exclusive, emphasized the minister, adding that the ties with the United States, the European Union, Japan and Turkey are also very important for Mongolia in a globalized world.

“Absolutely excellent relations with the European Union. This month, in fact, the European Parliament is expected to ratify the partnership agreement with Mongolia,” said the minister.

With the US, “We have a clear commitment from the new administration (of President Donald Trump) that it will continue with its projects and cooperation with Mongolia,” which, he recalled, are not only in the political and economic fields but also in the military, exemplified by the group of Mongolian soldiers operating in Afghanistan.

Chinese-Mongolian relations became strained in November, when the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia – where Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion – sparking protests and pressures from Beijing.

“On the other hand, notwithstanding the religious nature of his trip, it put significant strains on Chinese-Mongolian relations,” said the minister, confirming that as a result of the diplomatic conflict, Beijing suspended some bilateral contacts and negotiations.

The Minister and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, eventually agreed through a telephone call that “for the time that this government stays in power, the Dalai Lama will not be visiting Mongolia,” which reopens the door for trade and economic negotiations between the two countries, an issue which Munkh-Orgil plans to discuss next week in Beijing.

Source:Latin American Herald Tribune
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