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Remarks by Michelle O'Neill

Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

U.S.-Mongolia Trade and Economic Relations

Fourth U.S.-Mongolia Business Forum
Washington, D.C.
June 9, 2009

As prepared for delivery


On behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce, I am delighted to speak to all of our guests here today – from government, business, and academia – for the Fourth U.S.-Mongolia Business Forum.

As many of you know, four years ago, the Department of Commerce established an annual U.S.-Mongolia Business Forum to enhance commercial cooperation between the United States and Mongolia.  We have had three successful forums that brought together U.S. and Mongolian government officials and business representatives. 

I am happy to see that the number of attendees for the Forum has grown every year, highlighting deeper and stronger commercial relations between the United States and Mongolia and an increased interest in doing business with each other. 

Our government greatly values the U.S.-Mongolia relationship.  After establishing diplomatic ties with Mongolia in 1987, the United States quickly became a friend, partner, and “third neighbor” to Mongolia. The U.S. Government applauded Mongolia when it embraced a market economy in 1990, and continues to support Mongolia’s progress toward a full market economy.

During the last 19 years, Mongolia has made significant progress toward a private sector-led economy that has been growing steadily.  In 2008, Mongolia’s Gross Domestic Product grew an impressive nine percent, as a result of the expanding mining sector, as well as others such as agriculture, construction, and financial services.

Our trade relationship with Mongolia has also been expanding over time.  The United States is Mongolia’s sixth-largest trading partner.  I am pleased to report that in 2008, the United States had a trade surplus with Mongolia for the first time since our trade relationship began in 1992. 

Last year, U.S. exports to Mongolia increased by 119 percent over the previous year, from $26 million to $57 million.  U.S. imports from Mongolia in 2008 totaled $53 million.   

During the past several years, the U.S.-Mongolia trade and economic relationship has been developing steadily.  Last year we had our first-ever U.S. trade mission to Mongolia.  It was an honor for me to lead this inaugural event that included representatives from diverse sectors such as mining, education, and film-making.

During this very productive trip, I met with senior Mongolian Government officials, including Prime Minister Bayar and then-President Enkhbayar. I heard first-hand their strong commitment to the principles of a market-based economy and recognition that the Mongolian Government must move quickly on important issues, such as addressing concerns regarding the proposed amendments to the mining law. I felt that there was a strong commitment to improving the business climate and interest in attracting more foreign direct investment as well as world-class products and services.  This is good news for U.S. companies, as they are the leaders in delivering high-quality goods and services in a variety of sectors.

Since the United States and Mongolia signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in 2004, we have held annual meetings to address bilateral trade issues that hamper trade and economic development and impede investment between our two countries.  We would like to see Mongolia create a transparent and predictable business environment, continue to strengthen the rule of law, reduce corruption in the bureaucracy, and utilize best international commercial practices, including international best practices in its mining sector.

I am pleased that several U.S. companies have expressed interest in exploring opportunities in Mongolia’s mining and energy sector, and we hope this Forum will further increase participation by U.S. firms. As a country with rich energy resources on one hand, and in critical need of new energy infrastructure development on the other hand, Mongolia presents great opportunities for U.S. companies in the energy sector. 

I encourage U.S. companies here today to take advantage of this business opportunity and help Mongolia become an energy powerhouse. The agenda for today’s event is filled with energy experts from the U.S. and Mongolian private sectors and governments on a variety of topics, including clean coal technology, coal power production, renewable energy, oil and gas, and nuclear energy. 

I echo Mr. Wade's recommendation that all of you here today should take full advantage of this unique opportunity to learn as much as possible about Mongolia's energy sector, world-class American goods and services, potential U.S. and Mongolian business partnerships, and commercial prospects in the Mongolian energy market. 

I wish you a successful program here today.  I look forward to hearing about the results.