Thu, Aug 14, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Mongolia attracting capital, business

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Top trade officials from Mongolia and Taiwan held a forum yesterday in an attempt to strengthen economic ties between the two countries and attract Taiwanese investors the massive and unexploited Mongolian market.

"Many Taiwanese businesspeople are not familiar with Mongolia, but I assured them that they will find the nation a market full of potential if they would only visit it," said Huang Hua (黃華), chairman of the Taiwan-Mongolia Exchange Association.

Taiwan currently has no diplomatic ties with Mongolia. The two countries set up representative offices in each other's capitals last September.

Mongolia, which seperates China and Russia with its vast 1.564 million km2 territory and a sparse 2.5 million population, depends on its economic lifelines of mining and the oil industry, which account for 65.5 percent of the country's exports. Wool is another important Mongolian export, as the nation is the second-largest supplier of cashmere in the world.

Mongolia began its transformation from a planned economy to a market economy in 1990, and the Mongolian government started reforming its economy by privatizing a large number of state-run companies and ushering in foreign investments in 1996.

According to Mongolia's Foreign Investment and Trade Agency, approximately 2,000 foreign companies in Mongolia made total investments of US$489 million, from 1990 to the end of 2001.

Last year, Taiwanese exports to Mongolia totaled US$4.94 million, and imports of Mongolian goods in Taiwan were US$92,341. There are 10 Taiwanese companies operating in Mongolia with investments of US$9 million. Half of the Taiwanese companies with a presence in Mongolia are investing in the textile industry.

Besides mining and textiles, tourism and consumer-goods manufacturing are rising stars in Mongolia.

"The most valuable resource that Mongolia has is its primitive environment, which could attract a huge number of nature lovers if adequate infrastructure is built," Huang said.

As for consumer-goods, Huang said due to unfavorable weather conditions and lack of a domestic manufacturing industry, Mongolia is highly dependent on imports of food and consumer goods from countries such as Russia, China and South Korea.

One businessman agreed with Huang, and said he had plans to tap into the food and manufacturing sectors in Mongolia.

"I think the foodstuff industry is a worthwhile investment due to the continual shortage of food -- especially during winter, which lasts seven months in the country," said Michael Yu (尤慶田), director of Toffer Industries Co (特福公司), a Taipei-based machinery retailer.

Yu also said Mongolia could become a manufacturing center in central Asia by using cheap res-ources from China to produce high added-value products.

However, transportation is the main obstacle that may dampen the interest of Taiwanese investors, as Mongolia is remote from Taiwan and there are no direct flights between the two countries, said Liu Kun-chun (劉坤泉), deputy director of Industrial Development and Investment Center. In addition, as an inland country, Mongolia has to use the ports of Tianjin and Vladivostok to conduct imports and exports, which increases shipping costs.

"I admit that Mongolia has many advantages that are worthy of investment, but I won't comment on the inconvenient and costly transportation," said one official from the Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei (台北市進出口公會) who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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