January 29, 9:30 AM
I want to thank Oybek and Adiya for the kind invitation to be here, and it’s of course always good to see our good friend, Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar. Thank you for making the time to come here. I see it as a sign of how important we, the United States, are as a third neighbor for Mongolia. It’s a recognition that American values, especially business ethics, are welcome in Mongolia, and I’m grateful to all of you here with Amcham for promoting these.
With the new year ahead of us, I want to lay out our economic priorities for 2019: What we hope to accomplish this year in partnership with Amcham and the Mongolian government.
Perhaps most relevant to AmCham members is the Transparency Agreement, which requires that new laws, rules, and regulations be subject to a public comment period before becoming final.
Transparency is critical to the proper and efficient functioning of international trade and investment, and the implementation of this agreement will help provide producers, suppliers, exporters and investors with the needed predictability that comes with a clear understanding of the policies and practices that are going to be applied.
In short, it is a key element of the Indo-Pacific strategy – combining our two goals of transparency and private sector-led growth into an agreement that will enhance our economic partnership once implemented.
I know from my time working on the Morocco-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that it’s easy to sign an agreement; the difficult part is implementing it. We need to build up the software, hardware, and processes to ensure that Mongolia can publish the draft rules and receive comments. We have committed to providing the technical training necessary to finish implementing the agreement, and I am looking forward to continuing the positive momentum we have built with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and the National Legal Institute to finish implementation.
This year also sees the arrival of our Millennium Challenge Corporation country director to the embassy, who will guide the project forward. Aside from increasing the supply of fresh water in Ulaanbaatar by 80 percent, this project will build enormous economic potential for businesses that use clean water to bolster their revenue – and in so doing, create more jobs in Mongolia. I can’t emphasize it enough – creating the conditions for private sector-led growth is a core principle of the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Importantly, this project is a sign of how seriously we take Mongolia. As a grant program, it stands in stark contrast to the debt-ladled traps that China has laid not just here, but all over Asia and the rest of the world.
I want to thank the Foreign Minister for his continued support for this project, which has been essential to its progress.
We also appreciate the advances Mongolia has made in fighting money laundering. The additional new economic crimes law enforcement positions added in last year’s budget did not go unnoticed. We are also working to secure the funding necessary to purchase the gold standard in AML software, the goAML package, to ensure the Central Bank has the resources it needs to continue its efforts.
Implementing strong anti-money laundering rules and restoring the correspondent banking relationships we all want back will require a joint effort.
We need Amcham and its Financial Services Committee to continue pressing this effort, especially in the non-bank sector. We can get there, but we need to be patient. We recognize that we are asking Mongolia to implement in just a couple of years what it took us in the United States decades to do.
We are also excited about the new airport opening, and with that new possibilities for bilateral cooperation in civil aviation. I believe there are three Boeing airplanes on their way here this year. I can’t wait to see them in action and I’m so pleased that Boeing has been a great partner for Mongolia.
That said, there’s a lot more we need to do. This year – after the new airport’s opening – we look forward to welcoming FAA and TSA inspectors to lay out a roadmap for improvements to the safety and security of Mongolia’s civil aviation system.
Aside from improvements to our own safety and security, certification of the system – or “Category One” certification, as it is called in aviation circles – will open up new codeshare possibilities for MIAT. This also creates new revenue opportunities, paving the way for MIAT to compete on equal footing with other airlines.
Building air travel linkages is essential to economic diversification. Tourism in particular is a sector in Mongolia we all know has enormous potential. Those of us who have visited the Gobi, Lake Khovsgol, or ridden horses on the steppes know better than anyone – there’s just nowhere else in the world with the pristine landscapes of Mongolia.
Aside from bolstering Mongolia’s growing tourism industry, increasing air travel frequency means more trade. Most of the cashmere apparel exported from Mongolia travels by air, and most air cargo travels in the bellies of passenger jets.
This year we also look forward to hosting the Annual Bilateral Consultations, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks, and the energy dialogue. I could go on, but I know the Foreign Minister has a tight schedule.
So I’ll leave it there and conclude by saying, thank you for all you do here in Mongolia. Amcham Mongolia is an essential partner for realizing the goals of the Indo Pacific Strategy. We look forward to a productive 2019 as we continue expanding our robust economic relationship.