More than three years after it was signed in September 2013 by US Trade Representative Michael Froman and then-Foreign Minister Lu. Bold, the US-Mongolia Transparency Agreement was finally ratified on Wednesday, January 18, at a Washington DC ceremony at which letters by Ambassador Froman and Mongolian Ambassador to the US Bulgaa Altangerel were exchanged certifying that both the US and Mongolia have completed their respective legal requirements to implement the agreement. Formally known as the “Agreement on Transparency in Matters Related to International Trade and Investment between the United States of America and Mongolia,” the agreement will enter into force on Friday, March 18, 60 days after the January 18 ceremony.
The agreement applies to matters relating to international trade and investment and includes joint commitments to provide opportunities for public comment on proposed laws and regulations and to publish final laws and regulations in English. The English publication provision is expected to make it easier for all foreign companies to do business in, and invest in, Mongolia. The agreement also commits both nations ensure that administrative agencies apply fair, impartial and reasonable procedures and that persons affected by the decisions of administrative agencies have a right to appeal those decisions. Other sections cover the application of disciplines on bribery and corruption.
Certification of the agreement came two days before Ambassador Froman will leave his post at USTR on January 20, after President-Elect Donald Trump is inaugurated. It is customary for all Presidential appointees to resign at the end of an administration. At the January 18 ceremony, Ambassador Froman offered his appreciation to US State Department officials for their valuable support leading up to the signing and exchange of letters. President-Elect Trump has nominated Washington trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer, a former Deputy US Trade Representative, to succeed Froman. The date of a confirmation hearing at the Senate Finance Committee has not yet been announced.
The United States and Mongolia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on July 15, 2004, creating a United States-Mongolia Council on Trade and Investment that considers a wide range of issues that include, but are not limited to, intellectual property rights, labor, environmental matters, non-tariff barriers, investment and transparency. Through the Council, the two countries have established an ongoing dialogue to help remove impediments to trade. The next TIFA meeting will be in Washington DC at a date yet to be determined this spring.
The transparency agreement with Mongolia represents the first time that the United States has concluded a stand-alone agreement addressing transparency in matters related to international trade and investment. Previously, the United States had only negotiated transparency commitments as part of broader agreements, such as free trade agreements (FTA). Negotiating a stand-alone agreement with Mongolia offered an opportunity to build concretely on cooperation between the United States and Mongolia under the existing TIFA.