President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (as translated): Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen, welcome.
The President of the Russian Federation has arrived in our country on a friendly visit. We have held official talks. During our meeting and our talks, we discussed a wide array of issues covering bilateral relations and cooperation and touched on some international and regional issues.
I would like to specifically note that establishing a personal acquaintance and trust-based relations between two heads of state, as well as an ongoing political dialogue, are an essential foundation for the successful and fruitful development of our traditional relations and cooperation.
During this visit, we discussed issues of developing a strategic partnership between our nations in terms of political relations, trade and economic cooperation, and in humanitarian sphere. And these issues are concretely reflected in our joint declaration on the outcomes of this visit.
Within the framework of this visit’s agenda, the President of the Russian Federation will participate in the ceremonies honouring the 70th anniversary of our joint victory in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, hosting the Days of Russian Culture in Mongolia, and opening the Centre for the Study of Russian Language at the Plekhanov Academy branch. These events also represent a continuation of our efforts to develop bilateral relations and cooperation.
I would like to inform you that we have agreed to hold wide-scale celebrations honouring the 90th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Russian Federation, as well as the 20th anniversary of signing the Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between our nations.
I firmly believe that this visit by the President of the Russian Federation will contribute to the development of our bilateral relations on a strategic level and will raise our traditional relations to the level of a strategic partnership.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be visiting Mongolia and the welcoming city of Ulan Bator. I would like to begin by thanking my colleague the President of Mongolia, Mr Elbegdorj, for his warm welcome and his hospitality. I fully agree with him that this visit is an important milestone in developing the relations between our two nations – a milestone that will be characterised by building a variety of multi-dimensional ties between our countries, between our economies, and between our citizens.
The peoples of our countries are bound by ties of friendship that have spanned many centuries. Indeed, we do not need to prove anything to one another, since we have always been open to each other for mutual development: together, we built and created our new societies, and together, we fought our enemies. I think that good neighbourly traditions of this kind serve as a solid foundation for developing contacts in the future.
Like my colleague, President Elbegdorj, I give a very high assessment to the results of this visit. These are not ceremonial niceties; we had real, productive talks which, like all diplomatic talks, were fairly complicated.
We signed an array of documents, one of which is political, and therefore very important. It is a Declaration on Developing a Strategic Partnership, just signed by Mr President and myself.
A key element that links our nations is the economy. In the last few years, our economic ties have become stronger; our trade turnover has increased and remains high today, even despite our current problems. Still, I am certain that the documents we signed will raise our current level of trade cooperation even higher. We are looking at expanding cooperation in several areas, including the metal mining industry, transportation infrastructure, and agriculture. Naturally, our well-known companies, such as Erdenet and Mongolrostsvetmet, are key players.
But we are also happy to see the appearance of some entirely new projects. They relate to developing Mongolia’s transport network and the document we just signed on the mining, exploration, and processing of uranium ore deposits. These are prime examples of new projects, ones that I hope will be effective and beneficial to our nations.
Certainly, interregional near-border cooperation is very important, and is perhaps most relevant for our people. Russia has multiple regions actively cooperating with Mongolia, and the share of near-border trade within the total turnover between our nations makes up about 70 percent. These are good figures, and we must maintain them in the future.
We also have military technical cooperation. In particular, we are currently holding the Darkhan-2 joint military exercises.
Tomorrow, the President of Mongolia and I will be participating in a ceremony honouring the 70th anniversary of our common victory in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. This is a noteworthy date; I don’t think we need to prove anything to anyone, as this really was an example of military brotherhood. Our actions in that battle ultimately had a tangible effect on the course of military operations in the Far East during the Second World War. Thus, tomorrow, we will honour the bravery, the memory, and the resilience of our soldiers.
We have a few other important dates ahead of us, which were mentioned by Mr President. They include the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between our nations and the 20th anniversary of signing an underlying agreement which we are still following today. Naturally, we will be giving these dates special attention.
It is great that we are developing our humanitarian ties, in science, culture, and education. We will also be holding Days of Russian Culture, and the Russian Centre will be opening its doors. We count on all of this to help our close neighbours get better acquainted with our culture and modern life in the Russian Federation.
We are determined to continue supporting the study of the Russian language in Mongolia and the study of the Mongolian language in Russia. I think that these are the areas which determine the face of our relations, and we must give them particular attention.
Mr President and I also touched on some regional problems and international issues. Our positions in these matters are concordant. We are quite interested in having peace and stability in Asia, and we hope that the regional organisations represented and actively working here will have an important input into the resolution of a variety of problems. And we will certainly continue to work with our Mongolian partners within the framework of those organisations.
I would like to once again thank my colleague, the President of Mongolia, for his friendly, constructive approach to the issues we are discussing. I am certain that the strategic relations existing between our nations will continue to develop, serve to promote security on the continent, and most importantly, help our people.
I have invited Mr President to visit the Russian Federation, and he has accepted this invitation. We also agreed to maintain working contacts through our offices and through normal telephone conversations.
Question: Mongolia is a member of the WTO, and so our trade tariffs and taxes are quite liberalised; however, the Russian Federation is still not a member of this organisation, so we know that the access to our Mongolian goods in the Russian markets is quite limited because of tariff barriers. What concrete steps can be taken toward liberalising trade – particularly with Russia – in order to liberalise access to Mongolian goods in the Russian market? This is my first question.
My second question is as follows. On the eve of your visit, rumours were flying in that the Russian side still believes that Mongolia has not yet fully repaid a major debt – and because of this, the Russian side cannot provide favourable conditions of any sort to the Mongolian side. Could you please clarify your position on this issue?
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (as translated): The issue of liberalising mutual trade was a key topic in our discussions with Mr Medvedev. We discussed specific ways to address this issue, particularly given that the Government of Mongolia has already presented concrete suggestions on signing corresponding agreements for supply of Mongolian goods under favourable conditions. We have agreed to provide support to both nations’ governments and to give instructions to respective agencies to coordinate those documents.
The issue of settling this “large debt” was at one time addressed in a memorandum signed in 2003, and we agreed that the work that the memorandum called for had to be completed shortly thereafter, in order to clear the platform for implementing new large-scale bilateral projects. We agreed to instruct our governments to quickly deal with this issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: Now I’ll answer. Mr President has already made this task easier, since he talked about the agreements we have reached.
As for trade volume and the delivery of goods to the Russian market, we understand the concerns of our Mongolian friends. The structure of trade volume is unbalanced in a way that favours the Russian Federation, and we should probably work on optimising it. At the same time, we spoke about looking into many new trade positions as well as the agreements that already exist. And the one thing I would like to note is that this structure is not affected by membership or non-membership in the World Trade Organisation. In this case, Russia’s lack of the WTO membership does not place any restrictions on us, because even now, we have every opportunity available; we simply need to make good use of various instruments, including credit support, which will then help optimise trade volumes.
The debt issue is also important. In 2003, we signed a document whereby 98 percent of the debt burden was cleared, but some traces of that debt still remain, and in order for us to establish and develop our strategic cooperation, it is extremely important to deal with those small but burdensome issues, so I fully support what was said by President Elbegdorj. We have given instructions to quickly deal with this matter and to give the presidents suggestions on how to fully resolve it. That is what we will do.
Question: I have a question for both presidents. Today you signed the Declaration on Developing a Strategic Partnership. It is no secret that recently, many nations other than Russia – including the United States and China – have also shown a lot of interest in Mongolia. In this respect, what advantages does Russia offer on the economic front, and perhaps on the political front as well?
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (as translated): Relations between Mongolia and Russia are special, both historically and in the present day. As you know, nearly 90 years have passed since we established diplomatic relations. It must be noted that throughout Mongolia’s long period of development, Russia played an important role. The specific nature of the relations between Mongolia and Russia stems from the fact that these relations are cemented by the work of our peoples and the blood and sweat of our citizens. Those projects, businesses, and joint ventures that continue to determine the modern, economic face of our nation and play an important role in our country’s development are also a concrete manifestation of our particular relations.
During Mr Medvedev’s visit to Mongolia, we signed the Declaration on Developing a Strategic Partnership, which allows us to strategically develop our cooperation and implement new projects whose foundation we have already laid. I would particularly like to mention the infrastructure, the railway transport, in the first place.
Naturally, issues related to developing trade cooperation were at the centre of our attention, particularly in regard to eliminating the deficit and imbalance that exist in our trade turnover. In 2008, for example, we received imports from the Russian Federation worth USD 1.2 billion, while Mongolian exports to Russia were worth only USD 860 million. And naturally, we must work to balance our trade transactions.
We signed an agreement on creating a joint company in the uranium industry. We also noted that respective documents are being signed and military technical cooperation is developing, thereby expanding the activities and improving the efficiency of our existing joint ventures.
I would like to point out again that on the presidential level we reached an agreement to develop our cooperation as a strategic partnership, which is an important, noteworthy, and historic event in our relations.
It is particularly significant that the President of the Russian Federation will participate in the ceremony honouring the 70th anniversary of our joint victory in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. In this way, we are paying our respects to the heroic feats of our two peoples.
Dmitry Medvedev: My colleague, President Elbegdorj, has already said just about everything that needs to be said. I can simply add that each nation and each sovereign state chooses its partners independently, which is normal. At the same time, history cannot be forgotten or changed. Thus, the ties that bind our countries and the millennia of relations existing between our peoples are nevertheless a very solid foundation for developing relations in the future.
But we cannot simply sit back and rest on our laurels. Today, we have made an effort to form agreements on many different issues, which were just listed by Mr President. I feel that our relations are developing nicely in the traditional areas of business, in traditional projects, and in joint businesses such as Erdenet, Mongolrostsvetmet, and the Ulan Bator Railroad. This does not mean that we can now relax and stop working. Thus, there are many new projects that lie ahead of us, including new infrastructure projects, new interesting energy projects, and the development of nuclear industry and processing uranium ore. I think these are all very interesting projects.
I think that today, we have helped improve cooperation between our nations. The political declaration that we signed serves as direct evidence of this.
Overall, everything is going well, so we are not making any changes to what is working. We welcome the fact that Mongolia is developing relations with other nations – it is good, and it serves as a component of regional stability. So, everything is also going well in this respect.