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Helping to Negotiate Free-Trade Agreements

Posted: 8 January 2020

A four-week internship with the Sydney Office of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) complemented Aruinaa’s Master of Economics from the University of Sydney. Aruinaa is currently working as Adviser to the Mongolian Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection, the country’s premier agency ensuring that Mongolians are able to enjoy a corruption-free consumer environment.

The Authority is not only involved in ensuring that Mongolian companies are transparent and honest, but also has responsibility for regulating advertising on television and radio, in the press and on the internet.

“For example, if companies or advertisers are caught breaking the Authority’s laws, they can be fined heavily – especially those who do not adhere to the Competition Law”, Aruinaa said. “There are also strict rules for advertising on television. Medical advertising and claims are monitored carefully, while alcohol cannot be advertised at all on television, except for beer and then only after 10.00pm – with a warning message!”

Aruinaa completed her Master of Economics at the University of Sydney in 2011, and her Australia Award studies have helped her and her colleagues in their work on the regulation of markets in Mongolia. “I particularly enjoyed Macroeconomics and Econometrics subjects”, she said. “These have been helpful as we develop policies for Competition.” And while Aruinaa is confident that the work she and her colleagues are doing on policies, regulations and laws, she is concerned that the Market Research section, which she was head of previously, no longer operates. “We need market research”, she said. “Without valid and accurate research into consumers and companies, we have nothing.”

After primary and secondary school in Ulaanbaatar, Aruinaa enrolled in 1999 in a Bachelor of Economics at the National University of Mongolia (NUM). Taking the advice of her mother (a nurse), Aruinaa changed her mind about studying Medicine and instead chose Economics as her undergraduate course. Graduating four years later, she soon found a job with the Mongolian Government. “The course at NUM in Economics was a special one. A lot of Mongolian universities and colleges offer courses in Business Administration, but the NUM Economics course is unique.”

On Award in Australia, Aruinaa took every opportunity she could find to learn more about Australia and Australians. She travelled to Canberra, the Blue mountains and Queensland’s Gold Coast – and made many Australian and international friends – from Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam. “I even tried to get my friends to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk – but they were too frightened to do it”, she laughed. “Australians were very kind to me and to my Mongolian colleagues. Australia is a very easy place to work and study in.” In her internship at the ACCC, Aruinaa was given opportunities to work across many different sections and branches – including the major Mergers and Cartels sections.

Since her return, she has translated two UNCTAD documents into Mongolian – for use by her colleagues, local companies and government agencies:

Manual for Competition law and policy for practitioners.
Investigation manual on Competition.
Aruinaa believes that she still uses the skills and experience gained from her Masters course and at the ACCC on a daily basis – and even more so when she was in charge of the Market Research Office. “And in my current role, I am still involved in research – reading and reviewing reports, inspections and other policy and implementation documents.” “Nevertheless, in Mongolia we still have much to do in the area of company regulation and consumer protection; we need to achieve a lot – not tomorrow, but yesterday!”

In April 2015, Australia Awards Mongolia caught up again with Aruinaa. Since talking last with Aruinaa, she has changed her job as a macro- economist with the Ministry of Industry, having joined that ministry in February 2015. When the Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection was restructured in 2014, Aruinaa’s supervisor asked her to move with him to look after a new section – involved in international cooperation, but she decided she would be better off moving to an organisation that had more relevance for her Australia Award studies for a Master of Economics. “As a very new agency, the Ministry of Industry is keen to have a positive impact on Mongolia’s industrial sector”, Aruinaa said. “Since it has been established we have received many project and program proposals from the private sector, aimed at improving the capacity of the Mongolian Government to work in partnership with industry.”

In such an important area for the nation’s economic development, Aruinaa is finding that she is working long hours, researching and preparing detailed documents and reports – and ensuring that legislation on topics such as Import Tariffs and Valued Added Tax (VAT) meet the country’s needs. “The main area of industrial development for Mongolia in the future will be in export-oriented industries, and substitute import industries – with the overall goal of improving Mongolia’s GDP.” As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 1997, Mongolia recently established an Economic Partnership Project (EPA) (free-trade); its first ever such agreement – with Japan .

“It was a learning experience for us”, Aruinaa said. “It was quite challenging, because as a country we had no previous experience in such negotiations.” Aruinaa believes that similar agreements with other countries will follow before much longer, possibly with Russia and China. “But before making a decision, we need to do a lot of research and consider the implications for Mongolia very carefully”, she added.