China-Mongolia trade opportunities abound

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Delegates at an ongoing trade fair near the China-Mongolia border are buzzing with anticipation about a slate of new government policies that will boost cross-border business opportunities.

Excitement at the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic and Trade Cooperation Fair in Erenhot of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region heightened on Thursday as President Xi Jinping started a two-day Mongolia visit, his first since taking office in March 2013 and also the first by a Chinese president in 11 years.

Li Pengyuan chose the occasion to launch his online trading platform targeting customers in Mongolia.

"During trial operation over the past few days, we received dozens of orders every day. We are very confident about our business future," he said at the fair.

Li, who spent two years in Mongolia working in the rice and timber trades, said online shopping has become more and more popular among Mongolians, but there are few online trading platforms in Mongolian.

His cosmetics, clothes and home appliances website, XOT is in Mongolian, which he says will make it much easier to use than English-language alternatives.

According to Li, his decision to launch the site was based on the sound bilateral relations between China and Mongolia.

"Chinese businessmen engaged in trading with Mongolia have realized that China-Mongolia relations are in a honeymoon period," he explained.

This is because of a number of recently introduced and upcoming regulations and developments making trade across the border smoother.

In October, Mongolia passed the new Investment Law, reducing restrictions on foreign investment.

In June, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved Erenhot to pilot preferential policies in finance, taxation, investment and industries.

And it seems more such moves may be on the cards. Upon his arrival, Xi and Mongolian counterpart Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj signed a joint declaration to "upgrade bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership."

"The strong complementarity between our economies makes mutual benefit the defining feature of our cooperation," Xi said in an article published in Mongolian newspapers on Thursday.

Private enterprises and investors are well aware of the present opportunities.

According to organizers of the fair, which opened on Wednesday and runs until Friday, Chinese, Mongolian and Russian enterprises have so far signed deals concerning 15 projects, with a total contract value of 1.23 billion U.S. dollars at the event. The deals cover mining, infrastructure and tourism.

Wang Qi, sales manager with cement company based in Inner Mongolia, said cooperation between the two countries is greatly benefiting his company.

The firm's Mongolian clients have grown in number from two to more than 20 since 2012, with a daily cement export volume of 1,000 tonnes.

"At the fair, we have made extensive contacts with Mongolian customers," Wang added.

Alatengdalai, manager of a Mongolian food processor based in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia, said he was excited about setting up a business in the cross-border economic cooperation zone the Erenhot government is considering establishing.

"I'm eager to have more Mongolians enjoy Inner Mongolian dried beef and cheese, which are very different from theirs," Alatengdalai said.

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