B. Altangerel: Mongolia-U.S. relations signify our third neighbor policy

2023-01-11 18:16:35

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/. In 2022, Mongolia and the United States of America celebrated the 35th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. On the occasion of this anniversary, we interviewed the former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the USA B. Altangerel.


Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the USA, now the 8th Mongolian Ambassador has been assigned to the USA. You were the sixth Ambassador who witnessed many achievements and milestones in our two countries’ bilateral relations and cooperation. How do you see our bilateral relations, especially relations in this new era?


- Of course, the relations between Mongolia and USA are not limited only to these 30 years. Rolling back the wheel of history, our relations have a long history spanning at least 130 years which is also proved by the historical and archival documents. I assume that by a new era relation, you mean the bilateral relations after establishing the diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the United States of America in 1987. I have been observing the development and consolidation of these 35 years of bilateral relations not only as a person engaged in the foreign relations sector but also as Mongolia's Ambassador to the USA between 2013 and 2017, who made contributions to the development of the two countries’ relations and cooperation.


The successful development of the bilateral relations and cooperation between Mongolia and USA has become a demonstration of the successful implementation of our country’s third neighbor policy. Our two countries’ bilateral relations development has built the profound foundation for our relations with other third neighbors, such as South Korea, Japan, European Union, and other Western countries. It also played a major role in creating a favorable environment for attracting investments from the USA.

When you were an Ambassador, we were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. It has been 5 years since then. Thus, between 30 and 35 years, what level have our two countries’ relations reached?


-Briefly speaking, for the last 35 years, our two countries’ relations have expanded in political, economic, military, educational, and humanitarian sectors and advanced to the strategic partnership level.


In 2019, during the state visit of the President of Mongolia to the USA, the Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between Mongolia and the United States was issued. We see that the consistent efforts of our Ambassadors resulted in this achievement. What important policies and works did you finalize when you were working as an Ambassador?  


- I think that the bilateral relations between Mongolia and the USA developed and advanced in many directions during my tenure. The two sides maintained regular exchanges of high-level visits and consultations. With the continues high-level visits and consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and the U.S. State Department, we successfully organized the Mongolia-USA-Japan trilateral meeting. This meeting contributed to further maintaining the frequency of consultations and strengthening the mutual understanding and trust in political matters between our two countries. 


The relations and cooperation in the defense sector between our countries are successfully developing, particularly in increasing the assistance from the USA and the participation of our armed forces in Resolute Support. Moreover, our embassy initiated to involve Mongolia in the USA “H-2” Visa program and started the dialogue. Now, this program has officially opened for Mongolians.


With the aim of developing and intensifying the trade and economic ties between the two countries, many other works, such as establishing and validating the Mongolia-USA Transparency agreement, implementing the first compact agreement of Millennium Challenge Corporation, including Mongolia in a list of eligible countries to sign its Second Compact Agreement, and resuming the meeting of the joint committee on trade and investment, have been completed. Establishing USD 350 million grant agreement with MCC was one of the noteworthy commitments, I would say. Now the project is being successfully implemented.


From a third-person point of view, the relations between Mongolia and USA developed more in political and humanitarian spheres. But the economic relations seem not enough. What do you think is the reason for this?


-The economic relations between Mongolia and the United States may seem insufficient if we look at them in a narrow sense. But actually, the economic ties between our two countries cover a relatively wider range of issues. For example, getting loans from international banks and financial organizations, such as the World Bank, IMF, and Asian Development Bank, and agreeing on their conditions always require certain support from the USA. It is truly one kind of indirect economic support for our country from their side. We can name many other such examples. In any case, increasing the direct investment and volume of the trade between the two countries have been the main focus of the parties and it will be the same in the future.


During the history of relations between Mongolia and the USA, what sectors have the two countries attached more importance to? What was the outcome? As a former Ambassador, could you please name the sectors that we should prioritize in our bilateral relations?


-Indeed, the relations between our two countries developed more in the political, defense, and humanitarian sectors. It is not due to our intention to particularly focus on those sectors, but because there is a wide range of possibilities to implement projects and programs. When I was an Ambassador, we strived to develop and intensify relations in the trade, economy, business, and investment spheres. I assume that it is still the main focus. However, the current level of economic relations between our two countries is still insufficient, compared to the actual potential.


Attracting the economic interests of the USA in Mongolia through deepening our economic relations and attracting investments from them is critical to ensure our national security.


Business relations ought to eventually develop once the foundation is created. But we should pay special attention to our economic relations with third neighbors considering their influence on our national security. I want our government to support American companies in light of their long-term strategical significance, not just for short-term profit. In my opinion, accompanying the investments from the USA, besides the eco-friendly technology, other best practices such as social responsibility, good governance, and transparency will be introduced to our country.


In order to strengthen the trade and economic ties between the two countries, it is important to make use of the Mongolia-USA-Japan and Mongolia-USA-Korea trilateral mechanisms.


Alongside defining that the trade and economic sector will be the priority directions in our two countries’ future relations, we can’t leave the defense and tourism sector out of our focus.