Ambassador’s Remarks for AmCham Annual General Meeting

AMBASSADOR GALT: Good morning, everyone.

Thank you, Jay, and congratulations to the new AmCham board members.  It is an honor to address you once again.

A lot has changed since this meeting a year ago.

Mongolia has a new government, as will the United States in another few weeks.  From both words and actions, the new Mongolian government appears to be firmly committed to its stated goal of implementing the reforms required to sustain its sovereignty and grow the economy.

The U.S. government will remain firmly committed to the Asia Pacific region, including Mongolia.  As my boss, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel, said recently:

“Our strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific benefits Americans, and nothing succeeds like success.  America’s future in economic terms, in security terms, in many other ways is inextricably linked to this dynamic and growing region.  … the United States has a huge interest in supporting and being an active participant that benefits from the prosperity and the stability of the Asia-Pacific.  Our national interests aren’t going to change on January 20th, although our president will.  The U.S. will still need to work with our Asian partners on nearly every global challenge that affects our interests.”

Mongolia is one of our Asian partners and the U.S.-Mongolia partnership has thrived under Democratic and Republican administrations.  I’m confident it will continue to strengthen in the years ahead.

At this time last year, I discussed my embassy’s economic and commercial priorities for 2016 and asked AmCham, as our partner, to join us in supporting and advocating for these priorities.  AmCham has – without a doubt – delivered, and our joint work has led to many successful outcomes.

Let me start with our shared priority of helping to diversify the Mongolian economy by increasing U.S.-Mongolia business partnerships.  As I have said on many occasions, we see great potential for the development of an internationally competitive agricultural sector in Mongolia and believe U.S. private sector businesses and technologies can play important roles in advancing this goal.

AmCham has been an invaluable partner in our efforts to bring together U.S. private sector companies, Mongolian businesses, and the Mongolian government to discuss how the agricultural sector can move forward.  We have supported AmCham’s agricultural sector working group’s efforts to engage with the Mongolian government and promote the private sector as a key source of agricultural innovation.

AmCham supported our efforts to highlight the Mongolian agricultural sector in April at the Asia-Pacific American Chambers of Commerce conference.  Our fruitful collaboration there led to the June trade delegation of U.S. private sector companies interested in Mongolia’s agricultural sector, led by U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Santillo.  With AmCham support, the delegation explored opportunities in Mongolia and made numerous productive business-to-business connections.  I hope to bring another delegation of U.S. companies – perhaps in the renewable energy sector – to Mongolia next year.

Beyond agriculture, we have partnered with AmCham in many other commercial endeavors.  In September we brought experts from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to lead a discussion with Mongolian government representatives on improving intellectual property rights protection, an aim we all share.

AmCham sponsored this event – and more importantly, recruited AmCham member companies to share real-world case studies with the new government.

Likewise, when representatives of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation visited in September, AmCham invited its member companies to discuss business opportunities with the delegation.  And when we needed an expert to share the private sector’s view of the Mongolian economy and investment environment with a U.S.-based audience through the Commerce Department’s Direct Line program, AmCham provided that expertise.

Perhaps the most impressive result of our partnership this year was the American Days Expo in September.  Bringing together approximately 90 businesses and organizations selling U.S. products and services – and witnessing the public demand for those products and services – was simply amazing.

Equally impressive is that AmCham has continued to grow, to add new members over the past year, despite Mongolia’s deepening economic crisis.  This tells me that as an organization, AmCham brings value to its members and to the business community as a whole.

Turning to the investment climate, we and AmCham have tirelessly advocated for increased transparency and consistent rules of the game.

My highest priority has been – and remains – finalizing the U.S.-Mongolia Transparency Agreement.  AmCham has consistently called for its prompt implementation and has made clear that it will be a significant step in improving Mongolia’s business and investment climate.  Indeed, AmCham has helped deliver this message to the new government by drawing on its impressive ability to provide a platform for government engagement with the private sector.

In a short period, the new prime minister, the new foreign minister, and a ruling party parliamentarian shared the Mongolian government’s views with AmCham members – and also heard members’ concerns.

The new government has committed to finalizing implementation of the Transparency Agreement, and, once it enters into force, we look forward to expanding our economic partnership with Mongolia, including by working with the Mongolian government to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and continuing our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks.

On the issue of consistent rules of the game, when we learned earlier this year that Mongolian and foreign importers would be faced with the imposition of a blanket certificate of origin requirement, we worked closely with AmCham to raise the private sector’s concerns with the Mongolian government.

Our joint efforts led directly to the requirement’s postponement and – we hope – to a permanent legislative fix in the new year.

AmCham’s efforts to resolve the certificate of origin issue demonstrate that policy advocacy is one of AmCham’s greatest strengths.  This is extremely important in Mongolia, where the government sometimes loses sight of the important role private enterprise can and should play in bolstering economic growth.  We have worked with AmCham to try and make our joint policy advocacy even more effective, convening a meeting of U.S.-linked business organizations in October.  At that meeting, we worked to coordinate, when possible, the American private sector’s messages to the Mongolian government to more effectively engage government officials on matters important to all businesses.

I am traveling to Washington next week for our Annual Bilateral Consultations with Mongolia.  I look forward to joining my counterparts from the Commerce Department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and other U.S. government agencies to continue our strong advocacy for the private sector, as well as for further improvements in the investment environment.

Given Mongolia’s current economic and fiscal challenges, I believe it is essential that we stay closely engaged with the Mongolian government and continue to advocate for the vitality, innovation and best practices that private enterprise can bring to the economy.  This is vitally important as Mongolia is poised to enter into an IMF program – with full U.S. support – and must adopt necessary reforms.  We are committed to supporting Mongolia’s efforts to revitalize its economy, and we will work to ensure Mongolia remains commercially engaged with the United States and the rest of the world.

As we look to the year ahead, I urge AmCham to further develop its talented young businessmen and businesswomen.  I have had the privilege of engaging with dozens of young Mongolian leaders over the past year and I am more convinced than ever that it is not government that will plan or regulate Mongolia out of its economic difficulties, but rather the private sector – young entrepreneurs – that will lead the country back to sustainable growth.  For our part, my Embassy and I will continue our engagement with young entrepreneurs to ensure they have the skills and the access they need to contribute to economic growth.

The coming year will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Mongolia diplomatic relations.  In close collaboration with Mongolia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are preparing to hold a series of events, including a June visit of the Philadelphia Orchestra to Ulaanbaatar, to celebrate this important milestone.

As we highlight the robust U.S.-Mongolia partnership throughout 2017, we look forward to continuing to work closely with AmCham to advance our shared priorities.

I eagerly anticipate the further strengthening of our already strong partnership in the new year, and look forward to exploring new avenues of cooperation.

Thank you again, Jay, and thank you all for your attention this morning.