Rewarding tariff policy through reinforcing Colorado’s partnership with Mongolia

Colorado’s Mongolia

As Washington and Wall Street grapple with the implications of a simmering China “trade war,” the United States has an opportunity to use nuanced tariff policy to reward a long-time ally and flourishing democracy in Asia: Mongolia. Colorado has a unique role to play because our state has enjoyed a long and close relationship for years.

Dozens of Mongolians — including prominent diplomats and elected officials — have studied at the Colorado School of Mines, CU-Denver, the Univ. of Denver and other excellent schools in our state. Denver is sister city to Ulaanbaatar, and the two capitals have enjoyed numerous cultural, education and trade exchanges — most recently hosting Ulaanbaatar Mayor Batbold and a dozen business-people.  Aurora-based Wagner Equipment Co. was among the first foreign companies to invest in Mongolia, and it remains among the most important investors. Indeed, the United States Embassy is located on #3 Denver Street!

Before becoming a Colorado resident, employer and recently-elected member of Basalt’s Town Council, I lived and worked in Mongolia for the better part of a decade. As geopolitical tensions escalate in Asia, Coloradans can contribute directly to stronger political and economic relations with this thriving free-market democracy that will serve our state and national interests. We can reward Mongolia, a stalwart partner, and contribute to security and stability in Northeast Asia.

After China, Mongolia is the world’s largest producer of cashmere. In 2017, world cashmere production reached 20,000 tons with approximately 48 percent supplied by China and 40% by Mongolia. These fine fibers are knit and woven into luxurious products found at high-end interior design and home décor boutiques, and at ski resorts across Colorado and the Rockies.

Congress has and will continue to play a critical role in our national security and trade policy. In Colorado, we are fortunate to have focused Congressional leaders who have evidenced past support for countries committed to democratic and free-market principles.

Congressman Jared Polis authored the 2014 Nepal Trade Preference Act that was passed into law with bipartisan support to help that country recover from a devastating earthquake, while strengthening its sovereignty and economy in the shadow of China. Sen. Cory Gardner, at the confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo, again demonstrated a keen understanding of the complexities of the region. As chair of the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, he has consistently advanced proactive and creative policy in our national interest.

The challenges Mongolia faces result from economic pressures exerted by its neighbors: Russia and China. Expanding U.S. — Mongolian trade will help the country grow its economy and, in the process, strengthen its sovereignty. It is in our interest as Americans that Mongolia remain a thriving free-market democracy in a region where it is surrounded by neighbors who have yet to embrace similar values.

The late Illinois Congressman Phil Crane, Founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw the benefits of a strong free market taking root in Mongolia. He pushed Congress to grant Mongolia “Most Favored Nation” status. Two-way trade between the United States and Mongolia soared from $9.2 million in 1992 to $707 million in 2012. At the high-water mark, U.S. exports tallied $665 million. American exports to Mongolia consistently outpace imports by a 10:1 margin. Mongolia has never erected protectionist tariffs and has welcomed American imports.

Congress is evaluating next steps following the Administration’s unilateral trade actions. Similar to the measures granted Nepal which was authored by Congressman Polis and championed by Sen. Gardner, extending trade preferences to Mongolian textiles, while nuanced and seemingly small, will demonstrate to countries across Asia that the United States is not only committed to new trade deals, but also to democracy and free market economies.

William S. Infante serves on the Basalt Town Council. With his wife, he launched Hangai Mountain Textiles headquartered in Basalt. He served in Mongolia as resident representative of the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation, and spent close to 20 years in foreign service with USAID/U.S. State Dept., and as UN Resident Coordinator (Ambassador) to Serbia.

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