Keynote Speech by H.E. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia

Imperial Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
May 21, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the Nikkei Conference

- It is my honour to be here today with the distinguished Leaders from Asia. I would like to thank the Nikkei and Japan Center of Economic Research for this splendid opportunity to meet with you.

- As we all know, Nikkei started the Conference in 1995, with prominent Asian leaders including the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

- It is worth to note that the Nikkei conference has truly become an imperative platform to discuss regional developments in Asia while promoting mutual understanding, common security and shared values.

- The theme of the 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia “Asia Beyond 2015: The Quest for Lasting Peace and Prosperity” is indeed a very timely topic for all of us.

- While undergoing various political and economic challenges, Asia experienced remarkable economic growth during the last twenty years. It also went through and learned its lessons from Asian financial crisis and recent global financial crisis.

- The 21st century is regarded as the Asian century. Asia’s presence and role in global affairs has grown beyond expectations and it is predicted to further heighten.

- I believe that building mutual trust, promoting stronger ties and regional integration among all nations of Asia will enhance prospects for Asia’s success.

- Strengthening multilateral collaboration among Asian countries will fortify the foundation of prosperity of nations of Asia as a whole. This will also bring long-lasting peace and prosperity to the world.

On Mongolia

- This year marks historical anniversaries for many nations. Among them is Mongolia, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its democratic revolution.

- Mongolia is a country of rich and ancient heritage, unique culture and astounding natural beauty. It is a land of free and brave, peace-loving and hard-working people. The policies of the Mongolian Statehood have centuries-long traditions.

- Mongols had built the largest land empire in the history of the mankind. In the Great Mongol Empire, Mongols governed by a written law called the “Ikh Zasag” or “The Great Order”. Then, as now, Mongols promoted free trade, religious tolerance, diversity and ran open foreign policy.

- The Empire actively engaged with nations near and far in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It was an era when the Mongols strove to establish a new world order - justice, peace and cooperation in their relations with other states and peoples.

- Through periods of prosperity and decadence, ruling and being ruled, Mongolia entered the world of the 20th century. Modern Mongolia restored its freedom and true independence at the dawn of the 20th century.

- These were turbulent times around the world, and in early 1920s Mongolia took on communism which reigned the country for 7 decades.

- Twenty-five years ago Mongolia stood at the crossroad to either gain our freedom or remain locked behind the stone wall. Mongolians thus joined the universal struggle for freedom, justice, human rights and individual liberties.

- Mongolian democratic changes did not break a single window, and not a single drop of blood was shed.

- Many still believe that conducting political and economic reforms at the same time is not an Asian way. But this is a fairy-tale. We broke that old stereotype by reforming our political, economic and social systems concurrently since 1990.

- Mongolia has become a vibrant democracy and a dynamic market economy. The private sector, which barely produced even less than 5% of GDP twenty years ago, today has become the driving force of the economy yielding more than 80% of our GDP.

On investment:

- Mongolia supports foreign investment in all sectors of the economy. It has one of the lowest tax rates in the Asia-Pacific region.

- The revised Mongolian Investment law dramatically improved the investment landscape in Mongolia. We also passed a new Investment Fund Law and revised our Security Market Law.

- Our priority now is to maintain high growth rates and diversify the economy that would boost value-added production locally.

- This is potentially within our reach as we have started major infrastructure and industrial development programs while continuing our mining projects.

- Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the People of Mongolia, I would like to express gratitude to the Government of Japan and other nations around the world for supporting Mongolia’s transition to democracy and market economy, laying the foundations for sustained development of my country.

Challenges we face:

In economy:

- Mongolia recorded the fastest growth in the world recently. However, the growth rate has declined within the last two years due to sole dependency on mining industry and mineral resources export.

- From this setback, we are learning lessons. In order to ensure sustainable growth, our country needs to strengthen institutional capacity to manage state revenues efficiently and establish stable and consistent political and legal system to regain our pace.

- Aside from diversifying our economy with more focus on agriculture and tourism, we also need to learn how to allocate our mineral resources income effectively among spending, investing, and saving.

In politics:

- Even though we have vibrant democracy, our politics is heavily influenced by partisanship, factions, populism, and impunity.

- We need to update our transitional legal system and correct the setbacks in our decision making process. Mongolia still lacks sound institutions in government and public domain.

- Today Mongolia faces many challenges and uneasy decisions. The principle we uphold in tackling those difficulties is being more open, more transparent, and with greater civil participation.

- Our hope is our community and our people. Within a quarter of a century, we raised a new generation of Mongolians who are tech-savvy and open minded. Our society is dynamic, entrepreneurial and resilient. These are the most important achievements.

Sharing our experience:

- Mongolia does not have an intention to teach others about democracy or path to development. Yet we have lessons to share with others.

- During our transition to democracy and market economy, we have received help and support from many countries including Japan, our largest provider of development assistance.

- Now it is our turn to commit funds and time to share our experiences and lessons with other countries in the region.

- To name but a few cases, with Kyrgyzstan we are sharing our lessons learned in building effective parliamentary democracy and doing legal reform; with Afghanistan, we are conducting training for diplomats and public servants; with Myanmar, we are hosting media workers, journalists and civil society members; and with North Korea, we are engaging in economic and security dialogue.

- Twenty three years ago, Mongolia declared herself a nuclear-weapon-free zone, which is recognized formally by the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. Mongolia prefers ensuring her security by political, diplomatic and economic means.

- Since 2009, Mongolia has fully stopped capital punishment. We stand for full abolishment of capital punishment.

- There is other way to live. There is a way to live without nukes. There is a way to live without capital punishment.

Mongolia and Regional cooperation (APEC, ASEAN, and ERIA)

- Mongolia, as an Asia-Pacific country with a growing economy, has an enduring aspiration to become a member of APEC, the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific.

- On our part, I can assure you that with its growing economy and friendly political relations with every single country in the Asia-Pacific region, Mongolia has a great potential to add substantial value to APEC.

- Mongolia has always regarded ASEAN as an important Organization, with an important role in the region and beyond. Bringing 10 countries together into a geopolitical and economic union is a remarkable achievement in Asia.

- ASEAN's broader regional forum, the ARF, is a key instrument for engaging North and South East Asian states in the pursuit of mutual security and cooperation.

- Mongolia’s participation in ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in August 2014 was a testimony that all ASEAN Member States are welcoming Mongolia’s willingness to develop closer relations and wider cooperation with ASEAN and its desire to become a dialogue partner.

- We intend to become an ERIA /Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia/ member state. For us to be an ERIA’s member, it is necessary to be an official member of the East Asia Summit.

- We expect that as a result of the Mongolia-ERIA dialogue, the ERIA’s Governing Board will consider the issue of Mongolia’s candidacy for ERIA’s membership.

- Moreover, Mongolia has been an active member of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the exclusively Eurasian forum to enhance relations and various forms of co-operation between the member states of Europe and Asia.

- Marking the 20th anniversary of the forum, Mongolia is proud to host the 11th Summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting in 2016.

- Taking this opportunity, I am pleased to invite all Heads of State government for the upcoming ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar in the summer of 2016

Japan – Mongolia EPA

- Japan has been an old friend of Mongolia. Since ancient times, the Mongols have called Japan the country of The Rising Sun.

- Our countries are enjoying ever expanding relations in many areas. I would like to highlight only one milestone event from our cooperation.

- The people of Mongolia convey, through me, the heartfelt greetings, congratulations and gratitude to the government and the people of Japan for concluding the Economic Partnership Agreement. It is auspicious that Mongolia’s first EPA was concluded with Japan.

- This EPA marked the first free trade agreement for Mongolia and signing such Agreement with Japan opens up potentials not only to expand our trade relations with Japan but also surge regional economic integration and gain actual economic value of our “Third neighbour policy”.

- This Agreement marks a milestone achievement in the history of our economic diplomacy. We are confident that this EPA will become an essential instrument to increase the flows of bilateral trade and investment from Japan as it eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, facilitates to trade and customs procedures and increases technology transfer from Japan.

China – Mongolia relations

- The biggest aspect in Asia’s prosperity is China’s continuing success. Over the years China has been the top trading partner of many Asian countries including Mongolia.

- President Xi Jinping's visit to Mongolia last year highlighted the importance China accords to ties with neighbouring countries.

- There is a common scepticism that China’s growing power and interests may overshadow its neighbouring countries. President Xi Jinping noted that “China would respect Mongolia's independence, sovereignty, immunity and its chosen path for development” and showcased China's encouraging approach to good neighbourhood diplomacy.

- It is a very good sign that China is willing to offer opportunities and space to its neighbouring countries for common development. I believe that a more open and developed China will bring more opportunities for its neighbouring countries, the region and the world at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mongolia and Northeast Asia

- Speaking of Northeast Asia, we understand that this region is very unique in many ways.

- First, it is a region where “the Cold war” consequences still remain.

- Second, Mongolia is a non-aligned nation. We do not have any unsettled problems with any country. Mongolia is “an honest broker” in dealing with promotion of peace and security in this region.

- Taking into account these particular factors, in March 2013, I have announced “Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on NEA Security”, a regional initiative similar to the Helsinki dialogue. This initiative was formally announced at the 7th Ministerial meeting of Community of Democracies, held in Ulaanbaatar one month later.

- Nevertheless, thanks to Mongolian diplomatic efforts North Korea-Japan bilateral working group sessions were held in Ulaanbaatar twice in 2007 and 2012. The aim of these meetings was to contribute to the six party talks but not to replace it.

- Within the framework of “Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on NEA Security”, Mongolia has hosted and organized a number of meetings, workshops and conferences such as NEA Women Parliamentarians Conference (November 2013), Ulaanbaatar Dialogue Initiative on NEA Security-First International Conference (June 2014), NEA’s Cities Mayors’ Forum (August 2014), NEA Energy Connectivity Workshop - Expert level Meeting (March 2015) and Northeast Asian Youth Symposium (20 May, 2015).

- Moreover, we have scheduled to hold Ulaanbaatar Dialogue Initiative on Northeast Asia Security - Second International Scientific Conference on June 25, 2015.

- We will also carry out consultations with our South Korean colleagues whose President has launched a similar proposal concerning the Northeast Asia. There is an opportunity to develop the advantage of the complementarities of the two proposals to each other.

- The South Korean President notes that the most important thing in inter-Korean relations is confidence-building and once the confidence is build up then disputes can be resolved by peaceful means.

- As you know, Mongolia became a member of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2012.

- We, Asians, need to learn from the international experiences and past history. I am not saying that we need to copy and paste alien experiences. We understand that the Asia-Pacific region, especially Northeast Asia is very particular and unique in many ways.

- The Europeans have rich experience in peaceful coexistence. The Helsinki process took 10 years to be concluded. In Northeast Asia, the process might take more years. Nevertheless, we should work from now on to have a dialogue mechanism in the future.

On some of the challenges and opportunities of our Age

- We all agree that the biggest change in Asia in the next decades will be China’s growth of power and influence.

- On the other hand, one can argue Japan-China relation or prominent influence of the US in the Asia-Pacific region is critical for the regional prosperity. Surely, there are still some uncertainties of dispute settlements and power balance.

- However, we must admit one thing. The global challenges such as climate change, food security, scarcity of fresh water, balance of natural resource and rapid growth of population, digital divide, new and re-emerging diseases, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and ever increasing energy demands, all of these major concerns and challenges facing us are of a scale that no one country, big or small, can address on its own.

- In order to overcome these inescapable but common challenges, leaders of all Asian nations should put joint efforts and promote regional integration.

- Poor governance and weak institutional capacity are common challenges among most of the countries in transition. Growing income disparities and inefficiency in rule of law could cause social unrest, which in turn could weaken regional stability. These challenges can be tackled with joint efforts and regional dialogue.

- I would like to touch upon one unique challenge which can be turned into a great opportunity.

- We are all living in the Information age. Widespread use of Internet and social media, evolution of citizen journalism, launch of Wiki leaks and Massive Open Online Courses have led to dramatic changes in our traditional way of thinking, lifestyle and ideologies.

- I think the government is like a computer hardware that is slow for changes. The people are like computer software which are updated and change faster than its hardware. You cannot solve today’s problem with yesterday’s tool.

- But the governments tend to become bigger, more sluggish and more distant. Therefore, in 2013, I introduced an initiative “From a Big Government to a Smart Government” in my country.

- I see today’s information technology, innovation and high technology advancements as an opportunity and partner for development. I would like to call on all the heads of state and leaders to accept this reality, live with it and support it.

- Chinggis Khan once said: “It was easy to conquer the world on horseback. What is challenging is to dismount and govern.” This wisdom is still very much alive and relevant today.

Dear friends,

“The Forum of Asia” Initiative

- I would like to reiterate Mongolia’s strong commitment to meaningfully participating in the political and economic integration processes in the Asia-Pacific region.

- There are many regional institutions and groups established with specific objectives in Asia. However, it is fair to say there is no single platform or mechanism of regional integration that is inclusive of all Asian states.

- In today’s ever-changing environment, we need to establish a solid platform and inclusive mechanism to enable all Asian states to get engaged in regional dialogue and cope with its challenges and opportunities.

- Let’s take a moment here. Where is Asia on the globe? [showing a picture of the globe]

- On a printed map, Asia looks like this. [showing a map of Asia]. If you look by country, you will see the list of 48 UN member states in Asia.

- Asia covers 30% of earth’s land area. Sixty (60%) per cent of the world population is in Asia. It means there are 4.4 billion of us. If you measure the world GDP by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), 10 out of 48 Asian nations are above 1 trillion USD mark. Asia’s share of global GDP has increased from one fifth to one third. Isn’t it impressive?

- Our Asia is bounded by three oceans (Pacific, Indian and Arctic), five seas (Arabian, Red, Mediterranean, Caspian and Black), Ural River and the Ural and Caucasus mountains. And we are connected through the Suez Canal and Bosphorus straight. These oceans, seas, mountains, river, canal and straight link us to rest of the continents in the world.

- So you see the map, you see the borders and you see the potentials of our Asia. Why should not we, our continent, have one regional platform of collaboration which includes all of our 48 UN member states?

- Thus, taking this opportunity today, I would like to propose a new initiative to institute a continental platform of our Asian collaboration. It can be named “The Forum of Asia”. The Forum should focus on security, rule of law, environment, economic and social areas.

- More importantly, “The Forum of Asia” should promote equal representation of interests of all sovereign nations in Asia, be it a small or big. It should guarantee each member state its independence, integrity, and way of development.

- In addition, the forum should ensure the rights of all member states while deterring hegemony and securing equality. It is better to have one common platform for all Asian nations than wrestling one by one in the global arena.

- We seek to make our own contribution for solving some of the pressing challenges in our age. We firmly believe that open dialogue and discussions enhance confidence among nations.

- Our Minister of Foreign Affairs is present here with us. We hope to continue our dialogue on Mongolia’s initiative “The Forum of Asia” with the Asian community and look forward for positive feedback.

Dear friends,


- Mongolia will maintain its position as the “democratic anchor of the east”. We will stand for justice, peace, democracy, shared values, and prosperity for all.

- I am confident that if we all stand for the hope and divine aspirations of others together we will make our own aspirations more secure.

- The 21st century is going to be an Asian century and the future of Asia looks promising for all of us. What we want is that the 21st century be a century in which universal values could reign, cooperation and conciliation could rule.

- We shall always strive for more openness, more innovation and more collaboration which will certainly lead the nations of Asia to lasting peace, harmony and regional cooperation.

- Let’s all work together to make the world a better place. Thank you for your attention.