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German car producers could fall victim to US sanctions against Russian aluminum www.rt.com

Sanctions against top Russian aluminum producers are likely to hit European car production, according to Germany’s WVMetalle, a lobbying group for 655 metals companies.
The group says unless actions are taken, many car plants in Germany and Europe will be closed, and others will face supply disruption, Bloomberg reports.

“Re-jigging all of those trade flows is really, really tough. You’ve cut off the US and Europe from its traditional supplier,” Michael Widmer, head of metals markets research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, told Bloomberg.

The crucial plant for Europe is Russia’s RUSAL facility in the Aughinish aluminum refinery in Ireland. The aluminum from the plant is sold to smelters across Europe. “Aughinish is indispensable for the alumina supply of the European market,” WVMetalle said.

Aluminum prices have surged almost 30 percent in the last two weeks to $2,537 – the highest level in seven years. Earlier in an interview with RT, Russia’s aluminum association predicted the same consequences as the German lobbying group did.

“The high price of aluminum, which is the result of the largest player's withdrawal from the market, will slow economic growth and affect the competitiveness of export-oriented European industries like the automotive industry and other transport engineering. Germany could suffer the most,” the association said.



New automobile sales on the rise www.gogo.mn

The Mongolian Automobile Distributors’ Association /MADA/ reported that its dealers saw an increase in sales of 40 percent in the first quarter of 2018, selling 610 automobiles, with more than 70 percent of those sold being SUVs.

This represents a 45 percent increase in SUV sales as compared to the same period in 2017. The country’s economic recovery is considered to be one of the main factors in the increased demand.

According to MADA, the number of new automobiles imported grew by 35 percent over last year, totaling 732 automobiles. On the other hand, the number of used automobiles imported decreased by 12 percent.



Trump could be forced to hold summit with Kim Jong-un in Mongolia because dictator's aging plane can't make it safely to any other neutral venue www.dailymail.co.uk

Mongolia could end up as the winner of the competition to host President Trump and Kim Jong-un's historic sit down.

It is one of the only countries that's been floated that is within easy traveling distance for Kim and would serve as neutral territory for both leaders.

Kim is likely be confined to a 2,000 mile radius, The New York Times reported. His Soviet-era plane may not be able to fly further than that without stopping to refuel, the publication reported.

The North Korean dictator's aging private jet, an IL-62, has a factory specified range of 10,000 km, or 6,215 miles - but experts said it was unclear it could actually go that far safely.

'The idea that their aircraft are all very short range things is just inaccurate,' Dean Cheng, the senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, told DailyMail.com.

Cheng pointed out that North Korea is also in possession of two Tupolev Tu-204 planes that have ranges of up to 3,600 miles. The Tu-204 was manufactured to compete with and is similar in make to the Boeing 757.

Whether Kim's plane will be able to fly thousands of miles safely or reliably, or the North Korea leader wants to make a long-distance flight, Cheng said, is another matter.

'At the end of the day I think the real question is going to be, and we don't have visibility into this, what are the constraints that Kim Jong-un has chosen to impose?' Cheng said. 'That more than anything else will probably be the deciding factor, after which is: we're not going to Pyongyang.'

Given the expected restraints on Kim's travel, Ulaanbaatar has emerged as a front-runner to host the summit that the U.S. government says is likely to take place in the next six weeks.

Ulaanbaatar has hosted talks between Japanese officials and the North Korean government on more than one occasion before.

Mongolia's former president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, made note of those talks in a March tweet inviting Trump and Kim to his nation's capital city.

'A long waited breakthrough! Here is an offer: US President Trump and NK leader Kim meet in UB,' he said. 'Mongolia is the most suitable, neutral territory. We facilitated important meetings, including between Japan and NK.'

Kim's only known trip off the Korean Peninsula since he became North Korea's Supreme leader in 2011 was a March visit to Beijing.

He arrived in China by train, another mode of transportation he could utilize.

In November, Trump landed in Beijing to great fanfare. For days, he bragged about the red carpet roll out he received at both the airport and at an event the following day at The Great Hall of the People.

But Beijing is politically tricky location for Trump to travel to at the moment. He'll be under pressure if he goes there to negotiate with Chinese President Xi Jingping, as well. China and the United States are currently in a face-off over tariffs that analysts worry is the start of a trade war.

Trump shed some light this week on the locations that are under consideration for the conference with Kim during two days of talks with the Japanese government in Florida.

The president said five locations are being reviewed, and none of them are in the United States.

It is unthinkable that Trump would travel to Pyongyang to speak with Kim, a brutal dictator who's illicit nuclear and ballistic missile tests are what prompted the summit.

Panmunjom, a city inside the Demilitarized Zone between the North and the South, remains a possibility, though. It will serve as the site for a similar chat next Friday between Kim and Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea.

Assuming Kim could leave Asia, four cities in Europe were also thought to be on the table.

Geneva, Switzerland famously hosted a 1985 rendezvous between former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President Ronald Reagan.

Kim went to boarding school in Switzerland under a fake name and is familiar with the terrain.

Sweden has directly offered to facilitate talks with North Korea, suggesting Stockholm is under review.

The European nation acts as the 'protecting' power for the U.S. in North Korea, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho visited the country in March.

Two other Nordic nations are thought to be dark horses for the summit: Finland and Norway.

Choe Kang Il, an official with North Korea’s foreign ministry, visited Helsinki in Finland March by way of Beijing.

Oslo is Norway is the location where U.S. and North Korean leaders convened in May of 2017 to negotiate the release of the American student Otto Warmbier.

He returned to the U.S. in a coma and died just after his release.

'North Korea is remarkably opaque. We don't know what places he would consider acceptable,' Cheng said of the short-list.

'I look forward to meeting with Kim Jong-un. And hopefully that will be a success. And maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t be. We don’t know,' Trump said. 'But I can say this: They do respect us. We are respectful of them. And we’re going to see what happens.'

The president said that talks between the U.S. and North Korea had already taken place at 'extremely high levels,' a comment that was later revealed to be a reference to CIA Director Mike Pompeo's clandestine trip to Pyongyang to meet with Kim in early April.

Trump threatened Wednesday not to attend the talks if they did not seem they would be 'fruitful' toward achieving the end goal of North Korean denuclearization, although he remains hopeful the meeting will occur and that it will be 'very successful.'

'If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go,' he asserted. 'If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting, and will continue what we're doing or whatever it is that will continue,' he added.

Either way, Trump said, 'something will happen. So I like always remaining flexible, and will remain flexible here.'



US, Mongolia Air Forces Initiate Steps for Greater Engagement www.pacom.mil

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- U.S. and Mongolia air forces discussed opportunities for future engagement between the two services at a recent Land Forces Talks (LFT) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia March 26-28.

The Mongolian Air Force Command (AFC), a newly separated force of the Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF), requested Airman-to-Airman (A2A) talks with Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) to bring the two air forces closer together and strengthen their skills and relationships.

PACAF holds A2A talks with partner nations to discuss, plan and coordinate goals, objectives and activities for the next three to five years. The talks provide an avenue to develop interoperability, foster military-to-military relations and improve bilateral cooperation. PACAF currently participates in bilateral air force talks with 13 nations.

Maj. Christine Carr, PACAF Mongolia country director, represented PACAF at the LFT and spoke with the Mongolian AFC about the potential for future talks.

“It has been a unique experience to work with the newly separated air force as we work toward common objectives,” Carr said.

The MAF maintains an active role in world affairs focused on national defense, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. In support of the United Nations peacekeeper missions, they have deployed approximately 4,800 personnel in the last 13 years.

“The change [to an independent force] allows the air force to develop in the same manner as air forces of many other countries,” said Mongolian AFC Col. T. Ganbat, chief of operations. “Within a very short period of time, we could develop our relationship with air forces of other countries.”

Developing an air force is one of U.S. Pacific Command’s priorities for greater engagement with Mongolia, and part of the command’s overall goal to assist the Mongolian Armed Forces pursue their defense reform priorities.

“Mongolia endures as a small, yet strong, partner in Northeast Asia and continues to demonstrate staunch support for U.S. regional and global policy objectives,” said Adm. Harry Harris, PACOM commander in his written posture statement Feb. 14, 2018.

PACAF will send another delegation to Mongolia later this spring with the goal of formalizing the A2A Talks and hopefully scheduling the first meeting in 2019.



EAM Sushma Swaraj to embark on 2-day visit to Mongolia from 25th April www.ddinews.gov.in

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be on a two day visit to Mongolia from 25th of this month. This will be the first visit of Swaraj to Mongolia. The last visit of Indian External Affairs Minister to Mongolia was 42 years ago.

During her visit, Swaraj will co-chair the 6th round of India-Mongolia Joint Consultative Committee meeting, IMJCC, with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar, covering a range of issues including, inter alia, political, strategic, economic, educational and cultural ties. The last meeting of IMJCC was held in New Delhi in 2016.

During her visit, the Minister will also deliver the keynote address at the Kushok Bakula Birth Centenary Celebrations in Ulaanbaatar commemorating the birth anniversary of Late Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist leader and monk from Ladakh, India and a former Ambassador of India to Mongolia.

Bakula Rinpoche as the longest serving Indian Ambassador to Mongolia, made seminal contribution to promotion of India-Mongolia ties.



Seven Mongolian truck drivers killed in South Gobi www.news.mn

Currently, over 8700 coal trucks from 104 enterprises are transporting coal on the 239 km road between the Tavan Tolgoi mine and the Gashuun Sukhait border crossing. Every day, between 400-1100 coal trucks enter China; the number depends on the speed of the border inspection at Gashuun Sukhait. However, queues from 20 to a record 140 km long queue of coal trucks have been occurring when capacity at the border is not able to meet the export demand. An unfortunate consequence of the queues has been dangerous driving by some of the truck drivers involving racing each other, speeding and using unauthorized roads.

In 2016, a total of 1596 accidents occurred involving the coal trucks: on road of coal transportation and five driver died in 2016; last year it decreased to 1000, however, seven drivers were killed.

On 18 April, the Mongolian Cabinet decided to establish the ‘Autostop Complex’ in the Khanbogs soum of the South Gobi, or Umnugobi, Province for dealing with the queue of coal trucks as well as caring for the health and safety of the drivers.



Mongolia to receive technical assistance from China to save world's rarest bear www.xinhuanet.com

ULAN BATOR, April 18 (Xinhua) -- China and Mongolia signed an agreement here Wednesday on the implementation of the technical assistance project to save Mongolia's endangered Gobi bear (Mazaalai) and improve their range.

The agreement was signed by Sun Weiren, commercial counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia, and Gantomor Nyamdavaa, head of the Environment and Natural Resources Management Department at Mongolia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The three-year project will be implemented from the beginning of this summer with a non-refundable aid of 110 million RMB (17.5 million U.S. dollars) from the Chinese government.

Due to lack of food, Mazaalai is currently the world's rarest bear, with only 28 Mazaalai bears left, according to a recent research. They mainly feed on roots, berries and sometimes rodents, but refuse to eat human-made substitute-plants.



Bilateral cooperation plan signed www.gogo.mn

The general assembly of the Interregional Standardization Association /IRSA/ is being held in Ulaanbaatar from April 18-19. More than 40 delegations from Turkey, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus will participate in the general assembly.

During the meeting, the Chairman of the Mongolian Agency for Standardization and Metrology, G. Gantumur, and the President of Turkish Standards Institution /TSE/, Sebahittin Korkmaz, signed the bilateral cooperation plan, effective through 2022.

As part of the plan, both countries agreed to provide support for Mongolian businesses to export goods into the EU market, facilitate trade, reduce technology barriers, and plan to form a joint task force to monitor and develop standards in human resources. Deputy Minister U. Enkhtuvshin attended the ceremony and said, “It is critical to realize actual impacts of the plan soon and we can learn so much from Turkey’s expertise”.

Korkmaz noted, “Trade foundation is standardization. Our extensive cooperation in standardization could become a bridge connecting businesses.”



Vendors advocate relocation of Zuun Ail market www.theubpost.mn

The Ulaanbaatar City Council recently decided to relocate Zuun Ail’s building materials market in progressive stages in an effort to reduce traffic around the area and improve the environment.

Statistics show that at least 100 people get examined at the National Dermatology Center and 900 people get services at the General Authority of Intellectual Property and Registration. Adding the number of people buying building materials and going to the Sukhbaatar Health Center and Gerontology Center, around 2,000 people commute through Zuun Ail in Sukhbaatar District each day.

The large number of commuters around this area crowds not only Zuun Ail but increases traffic between Sansar petrol station bus stop, Bayanburd and the 32nd Roundabout by up to 30 percent, according to a specialist. They emphasized that the soil in Zuun Ail – the 11th khoroo in Sukhbaatar District – has eroded to the point it is endangering the lives and wellbeing of the residents.

Over 1,000 businesses operate in Zuun Ail

Over 1,000 individuals and businesses are reportedly operating along the one kilometer road stretching from the Second Children’s Hospital to the 32nd Roundabout.

The Sukhbaatar District’s Tax Department reported that more than 800 registered and permitted individuals and companies are running a business in Zuun Ail.

While 600 of them provide service at 21 centers, the rest build small buildings, sell construction materials, and manufacture windows, doors and wooded furniture outside.

City officials complained that manufacturers operate on public property and park their vehicles on the first lane, causing heavy traffic in the area. They expect the heightened traffic to worsen as street vendors selling socks, insoles, slippers, gums and tobacco increase.

Land specialists of Sukhbaatar District complained that many people are selling sand and gravel on the street around the 32nd Roundabout because of the building materials market and that the number of these vendors will probably grow in the future unless the government or city administration takes action to prevent it. Specialists speculate that building material enterprises are spreading to the 32nd Roundabout as buildings on either side of Zuun Ail don’t allow the market to expand to the east or west.

It was reported that 50 individuals and companies sell sand and gravel from their trucks parked along the road. At this rate, the 32nd Round will soon turn into a “black market”, as described by city officials.

In concern of the black market blocking roads to summer camps and houses of Ulaanbaatar residents located outside the capital, the Ulaanbaatar City Council believes it’s best to relocate the building materials market in Zuun Ail.

High content of lead found in children’s blood

Local residents are the victims suffering the most from the long absence of a proper land management in Zuun Ail.

Road accessibility has become a major issue in this area because vendors have taken up most of the limited space with their storages. Randomly-placed storages and containers are the main reason the road along Baga Toiruu is still under construction despite starting almost simultaneously with the construction of Khangai Town. Khangai Town was commissioned almost three years ago.

As many people occupy the small area and use latrines, the soil is facing serious pollution and erosion problems.

“The soil pollution around the building materials market is high and moderate 100 meters from the market,” read a report by the Ulaanbaatar Specialized Inspection Agency. The extent of soil pollution is evident in the trash and wastewater affecting Zuun Ail as well as the pee stains on corners of buildings.

Due to these reasons, the content of lead in nearby soils has exceeded the maximum permissible level. Last year’s heavy metals analysis found 27.3 micrograms of lead per kilogram in soil samples from Zuun Ail. An acceptable level of 600 part per million of lead in soil suggested as a “safe” level that would contribute no more than 0.05 part per million to total blood lead of children aged under 12.

However, blood tests of 29 children living with disabilities and 153 children of Kindergarten No.186 and School No.116 in Zuun Ail indicated that 62 percent of them were exposed to lead contents higher than the maximum acceptable level.

Vendors are willing to move out

The majority of vendors and residents are showing support for the decision to relocate Zuun Ail’s building materials market because they understand that it’s the only option for resolving these challenges.

“Most people selling things from containers on the streets are supporting this decision. Only the owners of large shopping centers might protest. People who do business outdoors are ready to move out,” said a street vendor in Zuun Ail.

A business owner said, “Let’s be honest – nobody would want to run a business standing on the street amid Mongolia’s extreme climate with drastic temperature swings. We would have no reason to reject if we’re asked to move to a new building where all building materials trade is centralized.”

A carpenter and three people who make windows and doors also agreed that the building materials market should be moved outside of the capital. The only request they had for city officials was to prohibit operations of large building materials centers and open markets in the city to ensure fair play in the market.

Some vendors and entrepreneurs stated that owners of large trade centers have held talks about the relocation of Zuun Ail’s market at every chance they got. They reportedly “brainwashed” small vendors to protest with them. A couple of street vendors stated that they used to follow these owners because they outnumbered them.

“There are over 80 enterprises and about 60 individuals running businesses outdoors. I heard that there were more than 1,300 people working in Zuun Ail last year. This means that about 1,000 people rent booths at trade centers like Odkhon. If these people refused to move out, the few of us will have no choice but to comply,” said one of the vendors.

He suggested city officials to negotiate with owners of trade centers and storage owners in the area if they really want to relocate the market. “They’re the only ones obstructing development projects aimed to improve the environment and living condition of Zuun Ail,” he added.

Public properties to be vacated first

A task force has been assigned to handle the relocation of Zuun Ail’s market by the Ulaanbaatar City Council. The task force plans to stop businesses operating on public property before the end of May as feasibility studies indicate that the project is viable.

The second step will be relocating some building materials manufacturers to the Auto Trade Complex and Nalaikh’s Building Materials Industrial and Technological Park. The decision to provide a part of the Auto Trade Complex was made in consideration of people who want to renovate their home but are unable to travel far distances to find companies, as explained by the task force.

Once the first tranche of the project is finished, intersections near Zuun Ail will be expanded. The task force plans to increase road lanes from four to six by August to improve road accessibility. Next year, old buildings will be reconstructed and a new trade center will be built. As a result, city officials hope to transform Zuun Ail into a residential town and ensure their residents have a job and stable income.

Leader of the task force Ch.Gantulga says, “Our task force has been working for over two months. We have presented our report to the Ulaanbaatar City Council. The council instructed us to relocate the market before the end of the third quarter of this year. The relocation will be carried out in three stages. People making a living from working there will not be chased away.”

“The first stage is to free public areas, expand roads, and build parking for 200 cars on each side of the road. Next, old trade centers will be demolished to build a large shopping center that will provide comfortable working conditions for vendors and meet international standards. In return for vacating their land, venders will get the chance to expand their business and work under better conditions. In the future, building material trades will be allowed at the Auto Trade Complex, Belkh Market and Zuun Ail but factories will be moved outside the city,” he clarified.

Believing that they will get a better working space, venders of Zuun Ail’s building materials market are willing to move outside the city.



IMF issues warning on global debt www.bbc.com

The International Monetary Fund says that high global debt is a concern.

In a new report, the IMF says governments should use the current strong economic growth to strengthen their finances.

The organisation also says that risks to global financial stability have increased.

It does, however, also say that the banking sector has become more resilient since the global financial crisis.

The IMF's assessment of the general economic outlook, published on Tuesday, was fairly upbeat for the near term.

But it did note there are risks, some of which are set out more fully in two reports just out, one on the stability of the financial system and the other focusing specifically on government finances around the world.

Future downturn
On governments, the IMF says "decisive action is needed now". It argues that by improving their finances when economic performance is strong, governments will have more scope to use tax cuts or increases in public spending to combat a future downturn.

Acting now also means they are less likely to have difficulty borrowing the money they need when the economy weakens.

There is criticism, in carefully chosen language, of the US, where President Donald Trump's administration is embarking on tax cuts at a time when the IMF judges the economy is close to full employment.

Policy there, the IMF says, "should be recalibrated to ensure that the government debt-to-GDP ratio declines over the medium term". That strongly implies a view that US should be moving in almost exactly the opposite direction to what it currently plans.

There is also a warning about risks of global financial instability. That is partly, though not only, about rising government debts.

Rising inflation and central banks' responses with higher interest rates could aggravate debt problems and could also hit the prices of financial assets.

Chinese banks
There's a particular warning about China. The large scale and opaque nature of the financial system pose a risk to stability, the IMF says.

That said, the report also notes that Chinese banks have reduced their use of risky short-term borrowing, in response to tighter regulation.

The report also judges that the global banking system is stronger now than it was at the time of the crisis. But it adds that reforms need to continue.

One encouraging point is the IMF's views that crypto-assets - the likes of Bitcoin - do not currently appear to pose any risk to financial stability. But they could do if they become more widely used.

It says the technology behind these assets has the potential to make financial markets work more efficiently.