March 13, 2018 / 7:51 AM / 3 months ago

Mongolia president appeals to U.S. for trade to protect democracy

ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) - Mongolia’s president has appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump for more trade between their countries, saying an economic downturn has threatened to destabilise the young Asian democracy sandwiched between China and Russia.

New Mongolia's president Khaltmaa Battulga speaks during his inauguration ceremony in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia July 10, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj

Mongolia’s role as an “oasis of democracy” in a region where authoritarianism in on the rise “does not contribute to economic development”, Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga said in a letter to Trump dated March 12 and published on his website.

Battulga said prosperity was coming too slowly.

“Ordinary Mongolian citizens have become discouraged by democracy and have begun to doubt our choice,” he said.

Mongolia is emerging from an economic crisis after agreeing to a $5.5 billion (£3.9 billion) economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund last year, which helped stabilise its currency and relieve debt pressures.

A resurgence in the coal trade in the region also helped boost growth to 5.1 percent last year compared with just 1 percent in 2016.

But Mongolia exported just $8.3 million worth of goods to the United States last year, according to Mongolia’s National Statistics Office. Its total exports stood at $6.2 billion, with the bulk going south to China.

Trade with the United States was less than 2 percent of its total last year, and a U.S. decision to allow imports of Mongolian clothing would help ensure economic stability, Battulga said.

He also called for easier visa conditions for Mongolian citizens.

The United States is one of Mongolia’s so-called Third Neighbours, which Mongolia uses to balance relations with heavyweight neighbours China and Russia.

Battulga told Trump that U.S. trade and investment could help prevent Mongolia from moving in a more authoritarian direction.

“I am confident that supporting Mongolia’s economic security will play a prominent role in your country’s foreign policy,” he wrote.

Reporting by Terrence Edwards; Editing by David Stanway, Robert Birsel

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