China raises fees on shipments from Mongolia after Dalai Lama visit

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Dec. 2, 2016 at 1:49 PM
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BEIJING, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- A town in China facing the Mongolia border is at the center of a trade feud a week after the Dalai Lama visited Ulaanbaatar despite admonitions from Beijing.

Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational corporation, is canceling shipments from a mine in Mongolia after the Chinese border town raised transportation fees, the Financial Times reported Friday.

China had protested the Dalai Lama visit a week earlier, which went ahead as planned and culminated in a five-day trip that had religious significance for the Mongolian government, according to The Diplomat.

The new fees were introduced Thursday and apply to shipments of copper and coal at several checkpoints in the Chinese territory of Inner Mongolia.

A Chinese provincial document states the new charges are "mainly for the repayment of principal and interest of bank loans taken out for port infrastructure construction as well as port facilities maintenance, management and other normal operating costs."

But a Rio Tinto subsidiary said Friday the fees are leading to "safety and security concerns as well as unreasonably long waiting times to cross the border." The Mongolian government says the additional charges on coal would coast $12 million annually.

Buddhists in Mongolia revere the Dalai Lama and his recent announcement of the arrival of a new Buddhist patriarch in Mongolia was one of the reasons for the visit.

The announcement however is also the "latest move in a geopolitical chess game" among Mongolia, China and India, according to M.A. Aldrich, an expert on Mongolian history.

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