AMBASSADOR GALT: Thank you very much for that kind introduction. Dr. Ganbat, ISS researchers, colleagues, thank you for inviting me to discuss U.S. foreign policy priorities with you today.
I know that some of my fellow ambassadors have also answered your invitation to speak here, and I am honored to now join that esteemed group.
In my first few months in Mongolia, it’s been a pleasure to get to know Dr. Ganbat and some of the research team here at ISS.
I value the work that you do as advisors to the Government of Mongolia and commit to you as Ambassador that the already strong partnership between the United States and Mongolia will continue to flourish.
This afternoon, I’d like to focus my remarks on larger U.S. foreign policy priorities as they relate to Mongolia.
During the Q&A, I’m happy to go into greater detail or discuss any other issues you are interested in.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to many of you that I open my remarks by talking about the United States’ “rebalance” to Asia, which began in 2010 and is very much alive and well today in 2016.
President Obama’s policy toward the Asia-Pacific is founded on the idea that the region is hugely consequential to the United States, and that our resources should be aligned in accordance with our interests.
While the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific represents a renewed commitment to the region, it builds on our active and enduring presence as a Pacific nation, whose prosperity and security are inextricably linked to that of the region.
Economically, diplomatically, and militarily, we have been, we are, and we will remain a resident Pacific power.
With nearly half the Earth’s population, one-third of global GDP, and some of the world’s most capable militaries, the Asia-Pacific is increasingly the world’s political and economic center of gravity.
The region’s dynamism presents the United States with both extraordinary opportunities and challenges, and that’s why from the beginning President Obama has prioritized engagement with the region.
We have been and continue dedicating significant diplomatic, public diplomacy, military, and foreign assistance resources to the Asia-Pacific region to facilitate economic growth and development, energy cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, youth programs, and education.
The key elements of our rebalance policy are to strengthen ties with allies and deter conflict; increase trade, investment, and economic growth; deepen engagement with emerging powers and partners; support a more effective regional architecture; and promote human rights and democracy.
I’d like to give just one example of recent progress in each of these areas and then tell you how I think they tie into our relationship with Mongolia.
First, though, let me just state that Mongolia is of strategic importance to the United States, and we value our partnership, which is based on shared values of democracy, human rights, and freedom.
Mongolia has proven a capable exporter of both security – through its peacekeeping – and democracy – through its mentorship of other emerging democracies – and it is in the long-term interest of the United States to continue to support Mongolia’s positive engagement in the region and beyond.
In terms of the rebalance, we have strengthened our alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The recently concluded U.S.-Australia-Japan trilateral dialogue highlights the trans-Pacific nature of our security, military, and political alliances.
Among the endeavors agreed on at this trilateral meeting was our collaborative support for the Mongolian Armed Forces as it builds new capabilities.
We are also increasing trade, investment, and economic growth across the region.
The most obvious example of this was the signing just this month of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to ensure a level playing field for American businesses and workers and to reassert U.S. leadership in a region vital to our interests.
The TPP is a strategic agreement. It is the economic leg and the “crown jewel” of President Obama’s rebalance strategy.
TPP convincingly demonstrates that sustained engagement by the U.S., as a Pacific nation, is shaping an open, prosperous, rules-based region.
As Ambassador, I have made reinvigorating the U.S.-Mongolia economic relationship one of my highest priorities.
I look forward to finalizing and implementing our Transparency Agreement this year and to hosting delegations of U.S. businesses doing their due diligence on potential investment opportunities in Mongolia.
To deepen our engagement with emerging powers and partners, we are working more closely than ever before with China, Indonesia, and India to join us in shaping a rules-based regional and global order.
Effective management of the complex and consequential U.S.-China relationship has been a key pillar of our rebalance strategy, as is building partnerships with Vietnam, the Pacific Islands, and others across the region to help solve shared problems.
A key challenge to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific is of course, North Korea and its continued provocative tests and missile launches.
The United States will continue to work closely with our partners on the UN Security Council and in the Six-Party Talks to take appropriate action.
Reducing tensions and maintaining the space necessary for diplomatic solutions to the competing claims in the South China Sea is also a high priority for the United States in the region.
We are committed to freedom of navigation and over-flight and believe everyone benefits from true demilitarization and non-militarization.
Mongolia is one of our regional partners with whom we want to deepen our engagement, economically as I just said; politically to support Mongolia’s sustained commitment to democracy; and militarily through our support for building the Mongolian Armed Forces’ peacekeeping capabilities.
The best example of our support for a more effective regional architecture was President Obama’s hosting of the first-ever U.S.-ASEAN Summit last month in California.
As further evidence of our continued engagement, this May, President Obama will travel to Japan for the G7, and in September he plans to visit Laos for the East Asia Summit, becoming the first U.S. President to visit Laos.
ASEAN matters to the United States not only because it encompasses vital shipping lanes, carrying over half the world’s merchant shipping tonnage, but also because Southeast Asia is an important driver of economic growth.
It matters fundamentally because we are committed to a stable, peaceful system of international rules that protects the rights of all countries, big and small.
Mongolia plays an important role in supporting and upholding our shared values of peace and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific region through its global peacekeeping efforts, mentorship of other emerging democracies, and leadership in the Community of Democracies and on the UN Human Rights Council.
Our reinforcing of multilateral networks also compliments Mongolia’s Third Neighbor Policy, which seeks to increase ties with regional partners and international organizations.
Which brings me to the final goal of our rebalance strategy – working with countries in the region to advance good governance, human rights, and democratic freedoms.
As a democracy, Mongolia is an important partner in the overall U.S. strategy in Asia.
We were pleased to support Mongolia’s election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2016-2018, and we look forward to working closely together in this important forum to further advance our shared goals of ensuring human rights and democratic freedoms.
This summer, Mongolia will demonstrate its commitment to international organizations by hosting the Asia Europe Meeting Summit.
Although the United States does not participate in this event, we have been happy to contribute to security goals for the summit by hosting an ASEM-focused cohort for training at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
In keeping with our goals of multilateral cooperation across the Asia-Pacific, the annual peacekeeping exercise Khaan Quest was the largest ever last year, with 24 nations participating, and we look forward to another productive engagement this spring.
It was my pleasure recently to participate in the ceremony to mark full NATO interoperability of the Five Hills Training Center, thanks to the combined efforts of the Global Peace Operations Initiative and the Mongolian Armed Forces.
Further U.S. efforts in Mongolia related to security include defense professionalization through sending Mongolians every year to the United States and bringing teams to Mongolia to conduct subject matter expert exchanges on logistics, arctic operations, and non-commissioned officer professional development.
Strengthening and deepening people-to-people ties across the region underpins all the goals of the rebalance.
We are proud to celebrate this year the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Mongolia.
150 volunteers live in every aimag across the country, teaching English and conducting outreach at the vital nexus between youth and public health.
And as some of your younger researchers know, I have initiated a new program to reach out to the next generation of young leaders in Mongolia; to understand what makes them tick; and to instill in them a sustained commitment to a free, democratic future for Mongolia.
So I hope it is clear that our rebalance is as vital as ever and that Mongolia plays a crucial role in partnering with us to promote a rules-based global order based on shared values of democracy and freedom.
Now, I am aware that recent foreign policy related news has been dominated by Syria and the fight against ISIL.
Through our reinvigorated alliances and strong partnerships, we are working to take our rebalance global, engaging key partners in the Asia-Pacific on issues beyond the region, such as ISIL and the challenge of violent extremism; Iran; cyber security; climate change; and global health challenges like pandemic disease.
The importance of the Asia-Pacific has not shifted despite new and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Europe.
And our partnership with Mongolia remains strategic and central to our overall strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
With that, let me thank you once again for the opportunity to speak with you today.
And as soon as the translation is over, happy to take your questions. Thank you again Dr. Ganbat for the opportunity today.