Donald Trump signs a visa-free travel policy for Mongolia

The United States President, Donald Trump has signed an executive order to allow all Mongolian nationals travel to the United States without visas.
The new order, serving as a change in visa policy for Mongolians travelling to the United States, would permit  them stay in the U.S for a maximum period of 180 days for Tourism or Business purposes only.
Stay over 180 days would therefore require a visa.
Trump says this measure is to strengthen trade between the United States and Mongolia.
However, Mongolians who hold dual nationality will be banned from entering the United States if their other passport is from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen-the seven Muslim-majority countries “of concern”.
It has emerged that trade and bilateral visa deals have been discussed by Trump and Mongolian diplomats in the States.

Source:April Fool Day
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Japan, Mongolia ink extensive cooperation accord

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his visiting Mongolian counterpart, Tsend Munkh-Orgil, signed on Wednesday a bilateral medium-term action plan for 2017-2021, including cooperation in the political, security and economic fields.

The action plan states that Tokyo and Ulan Bator will demand that North Korea completely abandon its nuclear arms and missile programs and abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“I hope to promote relations between the two countries in a mutually beneficial and strategic way,” Kishida said in his Tokyo meeting with Munkh-Orgil. Kishida also expressed hope of collaboration with Mongolia on other issues, including North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.
The plan also confirms Mongolia’s support for Japan’s aim of resolving the abduction issue.
On the economic front, the plan calls for steady implementation of a bilateral economic partnership agreement for free trade that took effect in June last year, and improving the investment environment.

Source:Japan Times
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After the IMF bailout package… What else?

Why the bailout?
The Mongolia government has jointly announced with the IMF that it will implement the politically difficult – but inevitable – rescue package, and avoid becoming a delinquent international debtor. Let’s be clear – this is an aid package, at very low interest rates. It is also coming from long-term friends of Mongolia – the IMF/World Bank, ADB and with support from Japan and other bilateral partners. The Chinese government will reportedly extend the term of the US$2.2B Yuan swap facility (due in August) by three years.
This multi-party package will only come into being because the Mongolian government has agreed to a structural reform of government finances and processes. Signing up to the US$440m IMF package has opened the door to a larger US$5B plus support and debt restructuring package.
The IMF $440m package by itself will make little up-front difference to Mongolia’s plight, being drawn down over 3 years.
This larger package will also make easier the refinancing of existing government debts. Just recently DBM’s bonds of 580 million USD (issued at 5.75% for 5 years) were exchanged for the new 600 million USD Khuraldai government bond (issued at 8.75% for 7 years). The new Khuraldai bond is 52% more expensive than the DBM bond raised 5 years ago. However it is a 2.1% lower interest rate than the last 500 million USD bond raised just 12 months ago – representing a 20% reduction in borrowing costs. This reflects a first benefit from the proposed IMF deal.
However the lenders are also saying, “if we are to help you then you must also help yourself”. The restructuring of government revenues and expenditures is required “with or without bond repayment” and “with or without IMF bailout”.
By the end of 2016, the budget deficit reached 15% оf GDP and public debt reached 78% of GDP (http://unuudur.mn/article/94871). Effectively government expenditures have grown at a far faster rate than its revenues. At the peak of commodity prices the government were running large deficits and borrowing internationally to fund this. With the downturn in commodity prices the debt situation has become chronic.
Fiscal restructuring has to take place, with or without IMF bailout, but with IMF bailout at least the country will receive fiscal support from donor community. So the main culprit is not just a temporary fall in mining products prices, its the underlying fiscal structure and policies which created the unsustainable budget deficit and inefficiency.
Some economists claim that the bailout package is either unnecessary or it’s terms are unfair – or both.
But we ask you – what do individuals, families and companies do when they fall on tough times? They restructure to survive. If they don’t this quickly their relatives, shareholders and trading partners quickly cut financial support. They restructure or fail – simple as that. For companies, you restructure or go bankrupt.
Officially governments do not become bankrupt – look at Zimbabwe for instance. However, where lending countries and major lending institutions see an economy and government finances being mismanaged or in very poor condition, they quickly reduce their support, and demand action before support is re-instated.
There are also notable examples of countries like Venezuela where political leaders prolong their own country’s agony. They pretend the crisis does not exist, or waste time placing the blame on other parties. They often continue to print money to pay their own bills and make debt repayments. They do this for personal survival (or benefit) – but economic recovery does not occur and the catastrophe moves closer because the underlying economic structure itself is erroneous.
Government leaders may take actions within their own country that defy commercial logic. In recent years, despite being in economic crisis, Mongolia failed to support implement a number of large investment projects which could deliver billions of US dollars in FDI and tax revenue. Projects like the Tavantolgoi coal deal, Power plant No 5 and Gobi power plant could bring in at least 5 billion of dollars in FDI. However, due to domestic politics it so far hasn’t happened. Unfortunately, No minister in Mongolia resigns when he or she pursues wrong policies and can’t work with investors (ie get projects to the starting line).
However, when governments borrow from international markets to fund domestic projects they ironically expose themselves to the reality of being a “commercial borrower” – where government must repay its debt on time or face significant consequences.
We know from limited experience that when your economy is strong your exchange rate is strong. This occurred during the OT stage one construction and the peak of the commodities boom when coal and iron ore prices were very high.
But now we, Mongolians also know from much longer experience that when your economy is weak, your exchange rate diminishes and interest rates climb to high levels. And critically the cost of repaying your international debt increases significantly in local currency terms. When government revenues have fallen and government costs are not reduced at the same rate, then a bad problem is made worse.
All of these factors are in play in Mongolia – and the only realistic option is to accept the IMF remedy. While it is bitter to swallow, it is better to face reality sooner rather than later. Without the remedy a declining future and financial disaster comes much closer. A mega-commodities boom is not around the corner – and is not our savior.
Let us be clear again – the current level of Mongolian government debt is not sustainable and Mongolia has significant international debts due for payment soon. Refinancing, on good terms, when you have already high debt levels and a weak economy is extremely difficult.
The current success of Khuraldai bonds was only possible because investors thought that the country is serious in its intent to rebuild its own troubled finances with the help of IMF.
The INS supports the IMF bail-out package and the co-commitment measures being put into place by the government. INS realises there will be hardships, but INS also wants a better future for Mongolia, and the bailout package is a first step towards this future.
However, INS states the long-term solution is not the bail-out package per se. We need our government to put in place “economic stimulation policies and programs” that ultimately provide better government services, higher incomes and more jobs for all Mongolians. Restructuring the fiscal system to make it sustainable is a precursor to recovery.
Support ourselves through a strong economy
Restructuring and repaying old debts is not enough. Cutting government expenditures and raising more tax is not enough. It is critical that Mongolia’s government deliver a strong engine room – that is a “strong and growing economy” to provide the things that other country’s citizens take for granted. Government needs to deliver the economic growth, solve escalating health issues and take real steps to actually improve the business climate.
We are all sick from pollution and anti-sanitary conditions. We need our government to deliver healthy cities and towns for our citizens, young and old, to live in. Health wise, and politically, this is not negotiable. The IMF bail-out package is not going to deliver clean cities..
We also need to remember that for every significant social problem (like pollution) not fixed – there is an ongoing and growing public cost. To government it is growing health budgets, for the business community it is lower productivity and absences, and for Mongolians specifically it is chronic illness and reduced life expectancy.
We absolutely need strong businesses, both domestic and international, that make profits, pay Mongolian taxes and provide well paid jobs. The current government has stated that the state should not play a role in business going forward. However, the jury is out here – where we see SOE’s reverting back to large panels of ministry representatives on their boards.
Both sides of parliament recognise the failure of our state-owned and state-run enterprises. They clearly do not deliver efficient business organisations or outcomes. They borrow from government, make very small profits and pay little tax. They also have higher levels of employment than would be the case in privately run companies.
Our government must solve (for themselves) the riddle of how to attract the next wave of foreign investment and international finance. Last three years have witnessed falling amount of investment of all kinds, from 6.57 trillion MNT in 2013 to 4.754 trillion in 2015 (NSO), which includes all kinds of investment. It is not just foreign investment that’s falling – public and private Mongolian domestic investment is also falling.
The Mongolian banks – standing alone – do not have the capacity to service the needs of local businesses.  Attracting investors (and finance) to Mongolia is critical for Mongolia’s economy. Lowering the cost of borrowing capital for businesses – to be profitable –  is critical. Both are essential if we are going to invest in new and efficient power and heating stations and smarter living technologies, to solve Ulaanbaatar’s pollution problem. Again, here the long term commitment to restructure and improve public finance is crucial.
The government urgently needs to accelerate the next stage of economic recovery. We need to harness the business sector and excite international financiers, promoters and investors about the prospects and returns from establishing business in Mongolia. This cannot be done on a basis of IMF bailout alone. Real and credible actions are needed to kick start the key projects.
Mongolia’s natural endowments are minerals and agriculture. Mongolians have a rich culture and the world shares a curiosity in Mongolia’s history. Mongolians in general are not isolationists. However, Mongolia does not have a large population so we must be smart in how we build external markets to attract and underpin new business ventures. We need to be even smarter in how we attract and retain our future business partners and those who will fund future grand enterprises.
Initiating large-projects (whether in mining, energy, infrastructure or agriculture) is the quickest way to stimulate economic growth, but this does not always have a broad impact on incomes or employment. Mongolian officials have unfortunately struggled in building good relationships with in-country investors and building confidence with offshore investors. The Prime Minister has stated that addressing this is a key focus for this government.
Mongolia needs to build a strong and credible case for “why business should focus on investing in Mongolia” – as opposed to other countries with similar opportunities.
The much-needed private sector investment will come when the correct conditions are in place. If these conditions are not attractive – compared to our competitors – the level of incoming investment will not be large.
This must be the next most critical task rapidly advanced by the government. It is not easy work, but critical to get right

Source: Institute for National Strategy of Mongolia
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Russian, Mongolian experts to meet for discussion of power plants in Lake Baikal area

Russian environmental and scientific circles have repeatedly expressed their concerns about Mongolia’s plans to build three dams at rivers that feed Lake Baikal

Russian environmental and scientific circles have repeatedly expressed their concerns about Mongolia’s plans to build three dams at rivers that feed Lake Baikal

MOSCOW, March 13. /TASS/. Experts of Mongolia and Russia will hold the first meeting in June to discuss construction of a chain of hydropower plants (HPP) on the Selenga river and its feeders, Mongolia’s Ambassador to Banzragchiin Delgermaa told TASS on Monday.
"A mutual decision was made according to results of the intergovernmental commission meeting [in December 2016 - TASS] that we will exchange information in the first instance," the diplomat said. "Mongolia has a conclusion of a French expert company that also built HPP in Russia regarding two our projects. According to their conclusion, construction of the HPP will not actually exert negative influence on environment. However, Russia has its conclusion and its studies," the ambassador said.
"It was decided to set up a joint research team with scientists and experts of both sides," Delgermaa said. "We suggested holding the meeting with participation of Russian and Mongolian experts in March but the Russian party made a proposal to postpone such a meeting until June," she said.


The Baikal Lake is unique, the ambassador said. "This is not merely the Russian but also the global treasury. Therefore we will undertake measures to prevent environmental problems and will jointly settle arising issues," the diplomat added.
Russian environmental and scientific circles have repeatedly expressed their concerns about Mongolia’s plans to build three dams at rivers that feed Lake Baikal, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the plan, three dams are to be built: one at the Selenga River, that accounts for some 80% of all water that flows into the lake, and two at its main tributaries - the Eg River and the Orkhon River.
The announcement coincided with the unprecedented decline in the Baikal water level that started in fall of 2014 and continued through 2016.


Source:Tass, Russian News Agency
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Mongolian PM to visit Russia in first half of 2017

MOSCOW, March 13. /TASS/. Mongolia’s Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat will pay a visit to Russia in the first half of 2017, Mongolian Ambassador to Russian Banzragchin Delgermaa told TASS on Monday.

"At a meeting of the intergovernmental commission in Ulan Bator in 2016, we had a very efficient discussion of issues in all spheres, not only in the trade-and-economic sphere but also in humanitarian and other areas," she said. "We have already adopted a detailed plan to deal with the problems that have been piling up for years, including railway transport, excise duties during railway shipments, building a water storage facility, cooperation in border regions. Our embassy is working with Russian ministries and agencies in all spheres."

"As for concrete results, we expect that about 40-50% of problem issues in relations between our countries will be regulated and resolved in practical terms before the Mongolian prime minister’s visit which is expected to take place in the first half of this year," the ambassador said, adding that the next regular meeting of the intergovernmental commission is scheduled to be held in Moscow in late 2017.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Mongolia in July 2016. He had a series of bilateral meetings with Mongolia’s top officials and took part in a summit meeting of heads of state and government of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) member states.


Source:Tass, Russian News agency

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Milbank Acts on Successful Exchange Offer and New Issuance by the Government of Mongolia

HONG KONG, March 14, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP advised Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan as dealer managers and initial purchasers in a US$600 million sovereign bond exchange offer and new issuance by the Government of Mongolia.
The transaction was successfully completed amid highly challenging economic circumstances. Mongolia has faced potential liquidity issues over the past year related to slower economic growth, mainly as a result of the country's dependence on commodities which have suffered from slumping prices. Initially the Government was able to secure preliminary approval from the International Monetary Fund ("IMF") for a package of relief measures, which gave the exchange offer and new issue strong momentum in the market.
Despite challenges which included an extremely tight deadline, the ongoing IMF discussions and rapidly approaching maturity of the Development Bank of Mongolia ("DBM") bonds in March 2017, the transaction was successfully completed on very favorable terms that achieved all of the Government's objectives. Approximately $476 million in new sovereign Government bonds were exchanged for outstanding DBM bonds, while an additional $124 million in new Government bonds were issued for cash.  Holders of more than 80% of outstanding DBM bonds agreed to remain in the credit by exchanging for new Government bonds at a yield of 8.75%. Meanwhile new Government bonds were issued for cash at a premium of 106.016%, with the proceeds to be used for further repurchases of remaining DBM bonds.
Capital Markets partner Jim Grandolfo led the Hong Kong-based Milbank team, which included counsel Paul Pery, senior associate Kurt Sherwood and associates Adam Heyd and York Wu.
Mr. Grandolfo commented: "Despite the challenging economic conditions, the Government of Mongolia, with the assistance of our clients Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan, was able to successfully address the concerns of the IMF and its international investor base to achieve their objectives, all within a limited timeframe. This marks an incredible turnaround for the Government and the country of Mongolia, providing what we hope will be a strong basis for long-term, sustained economic recovery. We are pleased to support our clients Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan and the Government of Mongolia on a transaction of such national importance."
About MilbankMilbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP is a leading international law firm that provides innovative legal services to clients around the world. Founded in New York 150 years ago, Milbank has offices in Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Munich, São Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, DC. Milbank's lawyers collaborate across practices and offices to help the world's leading commercial, financial and industrial enterprises, as well as institutions, individuals and governments, achieve their strategic objectives. For more information please visit www.milbank.com.
From:  Jocelyn De Carvalho, Public Relations Manager; 212-530-5509; 
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Mongolia Investing Nearly $1 Billion To Develop Downstream Capabilities

The proposed refinery, to be located in the Sainshand soum (district) in the province of Dornogovi, is forecast to cost around $700m, with a further $264m to be spent on pipelines needed to bring crude to the plant from local fields.
A decent proposal
According to the proposal, which was approved by the Cabinet at the end of last year, the facility will have a yearly processing capacity of 1.5m tonnes. Its output is projected to comprise 560,000 tonnes of petrol, 670,000 tonnes of diesel and 107,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas.
This should meet all of Mongolia’s petrol and diesel needs for the immediate future, with a heavy emphasis on diesel production reflecting a reliance on heavy-duty vehicles, particularly in the extraction sector, which accounts for close to 20 percent of GDP and more than 80 percent of exports.
In late December, the government announced it was seeking approval from the Import-Export Bank of India to utilize a $1 billion loan for the construction of the refinery and associated infrastructure.
The credit, agreed upon last year during a visit to Mongolia by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was extended to help develop the country’s rail network and general infrastructure.
Security of supply
One of the driving forces behind Mongolia’s plans to develop local refining capacity is a broader concern
about energy security.
Although Mongolia produces around 8m barrels of crude a year – most of which it extracts from the Dornod fields in the east of the country – it does not have any significant refining capacity. As such, virtually all of the current output from Mongolia’s operational oil fields is exported to China, and the country fulfils 97 percent of its processed hydrocarbons needs via imports, mainly from Russia.
Last year Mongolia imported 1.2m tonnes of petroleum from the country, of which 800,000 tonnes was supplied by Russian state-owned firm Rosneft, according to official figures.
In addition to saving as much as $1 billion a year in import costs, the new refinery could help boost Mongolia’s GDP by 10 percent, according to statements from the Cabinet. Initial projections put the facility’s turnover at $1.2 billion per year, with extra tax revenues and net profits expected to reach $150m and $43m per year, respectively.
Feedstock for the refinery is expected to come, at least initially, from the Dornod fields, located 545 km to the north-west of the site of the proposed plant, though other reserves will have to be developed over time to maintain supply while still meeting export commitments to China.
Upstream meets downstream
The development of a major hydrocarbons processing facility could have broader implications for Mongolia’s industrial development. According to the Ministry of Finance, up to 30 separate manufacturing lines, ranging from rubber products and plastics, to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, could be established if a domestic refinery were in place.
The presence of a downstream facility could also spur investment in Mongolia’s upstream sector, which experienced a drop-off in interest following the fall in crude prices in the late 2000s. With a ready domestic market for refined products, more of Mongolia’s fields could become financially viable in the future.
Mongolia has identified 332m tonnes of oil reserves; however, only 42.6m tonnes are technically available for extraction, according to data from the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry.
Long in the pipeline
The plan to build an oil refinery is by no means new, with similar proposals mooted since the 1990s. More recently, there was a scheme to develop a refinery at Darkhan-Uul aimag (province) in northern Mongolia with an annual capacity of 1.7m tonnes of crude and an output of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel.
A feasibility study for the for the $1.5 billion refinery was completed in November 2013; however, in early 2014 Mongolia’s National Security Council struck down the plan due to its expected reliance on feedstock imports from Russia.
As the latest refinery initiative includes plans to build a pipeline connecting it to Mongolia’s native crude supply in Dornod, a need for foreign imports should not be a sticking point.
While a refinery could help Mongolia fulfil its own basic fuel requirements, expansion of its industrial base will increase the need for more advanced products, such as lubricants and additives. Unless additional production lines are established at the proposed Sainshand refinery, Mongolia will still have to rely on imports for some oil-based products.
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