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Mongolian Foreign Trade and Cooperation
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Mongolia has worked to find its place in the international arena and renew its economic system with the support of donor countries and international organizations. Mongolia 's accedence to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in January 1997 highlights its success in pursuing economic reforms and developing a new trade regime in line with international trading principles. Membership has also subjected Mongolia to all environmental threats associated with a free trade regime.

Until 1991, Mongolia traded primarily with former socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union. Today, Mongolia trades with over 80 countries and more than 80 percent of trade volume is with Russia, China, USA, Japan, and South Korea (Figures 1 and 2). In 2002, foreign trade exceeded $1.2 billion, of which exports were $524.0 million and imports $691 million. Although trade volume increases annually, Mongolia's foreign trade balance has been negative, mainly due to low world prices for its key export products such as copper, gold, and cashmere. But metal prices increased dramatically in 2005-6, and this bodes well for Mongolia's producers and traders.


Figure 1. Percent of Mongolia exports purchased by China, USA, Russia and Italy in 2003


Figure 2. Mongolian imports from Russia, China, Japan and South Korea as a percent of total imports


Figure 3. Mongolia exports by category in 2003

China is Mongolia's largest export market, consuming 64 percent of Mongolian exports. China is the main importer of Mongolian copper and molybdenum concentrate ( Figure 3). Most of Mongolia's cashmere and hides are also sold to China. The United States is the second largest export market, accounting for 22 percent of total Mongolian exports. Mongolian exports to USA are mainly garments, textiles and cashmere products. Mongolia enjoys an annual tax-exempt textile quota with the United States and the EU under a bi-lateral textiles trade agreement. The Russian Federation is the third largest export market, buying 11 percent of total Mongolian exports. Russia is the main importer of fluorspar concentrate and Mongolian meat products. Trade turnover between Mongolia and Russia in 2004 reached $280 million, a 17 percent or $36 million increase from 2003. The bulk of Mongolia 's export to Russia are fluorspar (64 per cent), and beef and horse meat (22 per cent).

Russia and China are the largest exporters to Mongolia, together accounting for 72 percent of Mongolian imports ( Figure 2 ).

Mongolia will continue to experience the growing influence of China along with a substantial remnant influence from Russia. These two countries account for the lion's share of Mongolian foreign trade, foreign participation in resource extraction, and bilateral attempts to sort out transboundary environmental problems. The economic and political rise of China will possibly have even greater influence on Mongolia than it has had on the Russian Far East. Consequences will follow prevailing trends, with probably greater adverse impacts on the environment due to Mongolia's more vulnerable ecosystems and weaker regulatory capacity in government. Whether closer and broader economic cooperation with the less resource-hungry Russia might reduce development pressures on the Mongolian environment remains an open but valid question. Vladimir Putin's Russia is trying to re-establish its influence in neighboring former socialist countries, but whether these new policies will have positive environmental consequences remains unclear. To date, Russian agencies enthusiastically view the prospects of Russian engineering firms helping Mongolia to plan and build hydropower dams on vulnerable rivers, such as the Selenga River tributaries that flow into Russian territory. Yet the potential win-win alternative solution of simply increasing electricity exports from the existing large hydropower facility downstream on Russia 's Angara River is not even considered.

Map collection: Environmental impacts of economic development



GLOBIO human impact assesment

Human footprint and ecoregions of Amur

Human footprint and protected areas coverage

Threats to biodiversity in Southern Russian Far East

Industrial Development in Songhua River Basin (ADB 2005)


GIS: Human footprint


Web-site: Programs “Development of Russian Far East and Transbaikalia” “Development of East Siberia and the Far East” and their environmental implications: link to projects and atlas


Camel wool is one of luxurious export items (Photo by Bart Wickel)

Also look:

Economic development:

Sustainable future of Amur-Heilong

Russia – status of economy

Northeast China - status of economy

Mongolia – status of economy

Russia-China cooperation

Mongolian trade diagrams-2003

Comparison table on Eastern Mongolia and Xinganmeng China

Comparison table on southern RFE and Heilongjiang Province, China

Policy for Revitalizing Old industrial Bases in NE China


Cumulative impacts -how much is affected?

Human Impacts and Threats to Biodiversity

Threats to major ecosystems in the Russian Far East Ecoregion-table


"Strategic considerations on environmental issues of Revitalizing Old industrial Bases in NE China"

"Strategy Recommendations"

Our questions on "Strategy Recommendations"

Gloomy forecast of the future environmental impacts

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