OBG talks to Bob Carr, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Bob Carr, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Interview: Bob Carr

How have relations between Australia and Mongolia developed over the past decade?

BOB CARR: Both countries share similarities, including market economies, democratic institutions, and economic strengths in the agriculture and resource sectors. With our location and natural resources, we are both benefitting from strong growth and rising demand in China and elsewhere in Asia. I paid a visit to Ulaanbaatar in October 2012 for the 40th anniversary of our nations’ diplomatic relations. This followed a visit to Australia by the then Prime Minister S. Batbold and his deputy prime minister, S. Enkhbold, in February 2011. We have increased our diplomatic presence in Mongolia with the appointment of an Australian trade commissioner (Austrade) in May 2011 and the opening of a consulate-general in Ulaanbaatar in March 2012. We are also one of the largest sources of foreign investment in the country, and over 45 Australian companies have staff based there. We are also one of the largest bilateral aid donors. Out communication links are also growing via education and volunteer exchanges.

What plans do you have in place to increase the exchange of knowledge and technology with Mongolia in the upcoming years?

CARR: Partnership has existed between the two countries ever since the commencement of diplomatic relations in 1972. Indeed, this received a significant boost in 2011, with the signing of four bilateral agreements to exchange knowledge on vocational education, science, agricultural development and cabinet secretariat operations. A recent development included Australia raising to 38 the number of awards for the Mongolia Australian Scholarships programme, which allows Mongolian students to undertake postgraduate studies in Australia. Australia’s Mining for Development Initiative is also supporting the sustainable development of Mongolia’s mining sector. In 2012, Australia-Mongolia schools of friendship were created in each country. There is strong cooperation on vocational education under a recent bilateral agreement to help develop the practical workplace skills needed by Mongolians. There are also a number of university exchanges, such as between the National University of Mongolia and the Australian National University. The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine is active in training Mongolian medical practitioners. In November 2012 Austrade organised the first Future Unlimited Australian Education Fair aimed at developing partnerships between Australian education providers and Mongolian companies.

Apart from mining services, in which sectors do you see potential to enhance commercial ties?

CARR: Agriculture, education and infrastructure are particularly worth mentioning. Australia is a major agricultural power – one of the top four global exporters of wheat, beef, dairy products, sheep meat and wool.

These are all areas in which Mongolia has great potential. Australian systems and our technology for managing farm-to-consumer food chains are high-quality, specifically our traceability and food safety systems. Education is also a major area of cooperation, with growing links between Australian and Mongolian education systems and an increasing number of Mongolian students in Australia. Finally, professional services, such as engineering, finance, environmental and water management, and legal services, are fields in which Australian companies are already active in Mongolia.

Why is the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) a good option for Mongolian companies to raise capital?

CARR: Mongolia requires capital to discover, develop and mine its rich mineral resources. The Australian capital market, operated by the Australian Securities Exchange, has long provided a platform for capital, and has become a leading international centre for financing mining projects. There are currently 18 ASX-listed companies with 72 projects in Mongolia. The market also has a mining services sector providing technology, services and supplies to the global mining industry.

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Cover of The Report: Mongolia 2013

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