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Mongolia - US Relations

In recognition of the importance of western (American) education, in 2005 the Government declared English to be the second national language and English is now mandatory from grade five. Few Mongolians study in China (despite offers of scholarships) and Chinese is not offered as a foreign language in schools.

Mongolia is not of strategic importance to the US, at least not in the conventional defense and security context. Mongolia is too geo-politically, economically, and demographically challenged (i.e., landlocked between Russia and China, far from US markets, and sparsely populated) to be a strategic partner. And, Mongolia cannot afford to estrange its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, by becoming associated with US military/security objectives vis-a-vis either of these countries.

Mongolia's value to the US lies in it becoming a base of democracy in an otherwise unfriendly region. Mongolia's transformation into a democracy and market economy has been largely peaceful, free and fair -- in contrast to other post-communist countries in Central and East Asia as well as to some so-called democracies in Southeast Asia. Indeed, during the height of the ideological confrontation between "Asian values" and "Western values" in the 1990s, Mongolia joined the debate by rebuking Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir during a 1997 visit to Mongolia and heralding itself as the prime example of where Asian and Western values (of democracy) are one and the same. During 2006 Mongolia was both the president of the International Conference on New and Restored Democracies (ICNRD) and a member of the Community of Democracies Convening Group.

For Mongolia, the US is not only a source of tangible and moral support for Mongolia's transformation from authoritarian communism to a market-oriented, democracy. More importantly, the "comprehensive partnership" with the US strengthens Mongolia's sense of security and confidence vis-a-vis its historically aggressive and hegemonistic immediate neighbors, Russia and China. Mongolia has been independent since 1924, but not sovereign over its own territory until the first democratic elections were held in July 1990 (and the last Russian soldier departed at the end of 1992). Maintaining that sovereignty, in the face of political and economic pressure from its former colonial powers, Russia and China, is the real challenge facing Mongolia today.

The US Government recognized Mongolia in January 1987 and established its first embassy in Ulaanbaatar in June 1988. It formally opened in September 1988. The first US ambassador to Mongolia, Richard L. Williams, was not a resident there. Joseph E. Lake, the first resident ambassador, arrived in July 1990. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III visited Mongolia in August 1990, and again in July 1991. Mongolia accredited its first ambassador to the United States in March 1989. First Lady Hillary Clinton visited Mongolia in 1995. Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited Mongolia in May 1998, and Prime Minister Enkhbayar visited Washington in November 2001. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage visited Mongolia in January 2004, and President Bagabandi came to Washington for a meeting with President George W. Bush in July 2004.

President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Mongolia in November 2005. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited in October 2005, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert visited Mongolia in August 2005. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns led a presidential delegation in July 2006 in conjunction with Mongolia's celebration of its 800th anniversary. President Enkhbayar visited the White House in October 2007 and the two Presidents signed the Millennium Challenge Compact for Mongolia (see below). House Minority Leader John Boehner visited Mongolia in August 2009.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg visited to Mongolia in July 2010. In June 2011, President Elbegdorj met President Barack Obama at the White House. Vice President Biden visited Mongolia in August 2011 to discuss diplomatic and peacekeeping ties with the United States and the need for stronger commercial links. Assistant Commerce Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service Suresh Kumar visited Mongolia in October 2011 to head a US mining and energy delegation and to discuss the bilateral trade relationship.

The United States has sought to assist Mongolia's movement toward democracy and market-oriented reform and to expand relations with Mongolia primarily in the cultural and economic fields. In 1989 and 1990, a cultural accord, Peace Corps accord, consular convention, and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement were signed. A trade agreement was signed in January 1991 and a bilateral investment treaty in 1994. Mongolia was granted permanent normal trade relations (NTR) status and generalized system of preferences (GSP) eligibility in June 1999. In July 2004, the US signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Mongolia to promote economic reform and more foreign investment. In July 2007, six members of the US House of Representatives visited Mongolia to inaugurate an exchange program between lawmakers of the two countries.

The return visit came in August 2007, with five members of the Mongolian parliament traveling to the US Similar exchanges of lawmakers and staff members have continued. The House Democracy Partnership (HDP), under which members of the US Congress and staff directly assist their parliamentary counterparts in newly democratic countries, is an increasingly prominent means of engagement. In total, 25 Mongolian members of parliament have visited Washington and Macedonia on this program. Several congressional delegations have also traveled to Mongolia, including trips led by Representative David Price in June 2009 and Representative David Dreier in June 2011 as part of HDP’s ongoing engagement with the country. Six staffers from the Mongolian parliament also visited Washington during this time. Members of parliament involved have risen in prominence and spearheaded reforms.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Mongolia provides targeted bilateral development assistance in two strategic program areas: economic growth and good governance. These activities are conducted with an eye toward assisting Mongolia in managing the expected windfall and the accompanying challenges of its burgeoning mining sector.

While Mongolia’s rich endowment of mineral resources promises major economic benefits, it also brings even greater opportunities for mismanagement and corruption. In order to maximize its assets, Mongolia needs to manage its mineral wealth, harnessing its transformative properties to lower poverty, raise household incomes, increase political participation (particularly among women and the poor), and steadily improve living standards for all Mongolians. This can be accomplished through improved governance, policy reform, and enhanced private sector and civil society participation.

Between 1991 and 2012, USAID grant assistance to Mongolia totaled $222 million. The FY 2011 economic growth program budget of $4,338,000 supports an enhanced role for market-driven, private sector-led economic growth in Mongolia. Business Plus Initiative, a new economic growth flagship mechanism (a $20 million, 5-year contract begun in June 2011) will build upon and consolidate previous economic growth projects, providing the means to influence policy and the institutional framework in ways that increase investment opportunities, improve trade capacity, and stimulate business growth.

Good governance programming reflects USAID’s continued commitment and comparative advantage in providing assistance to develop Mongolia’s democratic government. Sustainable improvements in good governance and rule of law are necessary to strengthen democratic principles of pluralism, equality, and representation in Mongolia’s government. Transparency and accountability issues will be targeted through legislative reforms and institutional capacity building; this approach will enhance the capacity of the government to advance national development goals, including sustained economic growth and reductions in poverty through the Strengthening Transparency and Government Effectiveness (STAGE) project, which was under procurement as of late 2011. Governance programming for FY 2011 totals $1,860,000.

In addition to regular bilateral and supplemental funding, USAID central funds target a diversity of development needs in Mongolia, including programs that aim to foster an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities, improve responsiveness of local and national government through national consensus building activities, conserve biodiversity, secure livelihoods of the rural poor, increase citizen engagement in the 2012 national elections, and promote economic development through cooperative approaches. USAID is also supporting the Government of Mongolia as the 2011-2013 Chair of the Community of Democracies, an intergovernmental organization focused on strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide.

In most years since 1993, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided food aid to Mongolia under the Food for Progress and 416(b) programs. The monetized proceeds of the food aid ($5 million in 2008) are used to support programs bolstering entrepreneurship, herder livelihood diversification, and better veterinary services. The US Embassy supports a new request from the Government of Mongolia for USDA’s Food for Progress assistance.

The United States has also supported defense reform and an increased capacity by Mongolia's armed forces to participate in international peacekeeping operations. Beginning in 2003, Mongolia contributed troops to coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, gaining experience that later enabled it to deploy armed peacekeepers to both UN and NATO peacekeeping missions. While early Afghanistan deployments centered on the provision of artillery mobile training teams, current deployments are far more extensive. Mongolia now has some 370 soldiers in Afghanistan in support of both Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including fixed-site security missions at Camp Eggers and in support of Germany's ISAF contingent in Feyzabad, as well as 25 artillery trainers and six helicopter trainers. At the November 2010 NATO conference in Lisbon, the President of Mongolia stated his intent to double Mongolia’s contributions in Afghanistan, which had largely taken place as of December 2011.

In addition to deployments in support of coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mongolia has deployed over 3,000 of its personnel on UN peacekeeping missions in Chad, Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Georgia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Late 2010 saw Mongolia’s first-ever deployment of a UN Level II hospital to Darfur. As of late 2011, Mongolia was at the beginning stages of a 850-troop deployment to South Sudan under UNMISS.

In 2005 and 2006 Mongolian Government officials, including President Enkhbayar and Prime Minister Elbegdorj, requested significant increases in the number of Peace Corps volunteers (“PCVs”) serving in the country; at the time there were approximately 90 volunteers. Over the past 2 years the Peace Corps program has increased, and as of late 2011, there were 135 volunteers serving in the 21 aimags. At the request of the Mongolian Government, they are engaged primarily in English teaching and teacher training activities. Other program areas include public health, small-business development, and youth development.

Mongolia was one of the first countries eligible for the new Millennium Challenge Account initiative that began in 2004, administered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). MCC’s program focuses on providing grant support to countries that perform above the median in their income peer group on key indicators in three broad policy categories: ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. MCC-eligible countries propose projects that will significantly reduce poverty in their countries through stimulating economic growth. On October 22, 2007, at a White House signing ceremony, President Bush and President Enkhbayar signed a Millennium Challenge Compact that provided for $285 million of grant funding for the implementation of projects over a 5-year period beginning in September 2008 and ending in September 2013.

The Mongolia MCC Compact supports efforts to broaden and deepen economic development in Mongolia for the reduction of poverty and strengthens the role of the United States as one of the largest bilateral donors in Mongolia. MCC-funded projects in country are implemented by MCA Mongolia, a Mongolian counterpart agency that is carrying out activities in five main areas: (1) infrastructure, including construction of the Choir-Sainshand Road; (2) energy and environment, including support for Mongolia’s first large-scale wind farm as well as the introduction of new technologies such as more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient stoves in Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts; (3) land titling as well as rangeland management in peri-urban areas immediately adjoining Ulaanbaatar and other Mongolian cities; (4) technical education, with a view toward improving both the relevancy and quality of vocational training; and (5) health, with a special emphasis on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, as well as initiatives to reduce traffic-related injuries.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2012 18:54:19 ZULU