Mongolia finds a new friend: France

Briefly: French President Emmanuel Macron stopped in Mongolia on Sunday en route home from the G7 Summit in Japan. The visit was the first ever by a French president.

Mongolia isn’t just landlocked – it borders China in three directions, and Russia in the other. So it’s no surprise Mongolia sends 86% of its exports to China, while cooperating with Russia on a key new natural gas pipeline (to China).

But the world’s most sparsely populated nation (3 million folks in an area twice the size of Texas) is catching the eye of outside powers. It’s sitting on $1T to $3T worth of minerals, including elements like copper that are vital for the green transition.

And countries like France want in on that action. A French nuclear firm is already working to develop a uranium mine there, and Macron pitched a broader critical minerals supply deal while in town.

Intrigue’s take: One of the most intriguing moments was when Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh called France his country’s “third neighbour”. Mongolia has had a third neighbour policy for decades as it’s tried to find new friends and reduce its reliance on China and Russia.

Sitting on such staggering wealth, Mongolia will have no shortage of willing ‘new neighbours’. The question is how its actual two neighbours (China and Russia) might respond.

Also worth noting:

  • Macron is the second European leader to visit Mongolia this year, afterthe first-ever visit by a Polish leader took place in April.
  • Macron’s was the first official visit by a French president, but President Chirac reportedly made a secret visit to Mongolia back in 1975. Relations date back as far as the 13th century, when the Mongol king wrote to the French king proposing they conquer Damascus together.