Ambassador: Good Things Happen When Americans, Mongolians Meet

The Agricultural Bank of Mongolia had been bankrupt twice when government officials sought help from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"It wasn't being run as a bank; it was being run for other reasons," Jonathan Addleton, the U.S. ambassador to Mongolia, explained during a March 2 reception at the GlobalAtlanta offices and studio in Decatur.

The Mongolian government wanted to keep the bank solvent because the country used it to pay pensions to retired herders and the salaries of teachers and other government workers living in the countryside.

In 2001, USAID brought in a management team that ran the bank for 30 months. The bank was privatized in late 2003 and sold to a Japanese-Mongolian consortium. Now called Khan Bank, it is by some measures Mongolia's largest bank.

U.S. taxpayers invested about $2 million in technical assistance to save and revitalize the bank, said Dr. Addleton.

"The bank is worth many tens of millions of dollars today," said Dr. Addleton, who served as USAID mission director in Mongolia from 2001-2004. said. "When Mongolians and Americans meet, good things often happen."

The GlobalAtlanta reception attracted 35 people representing a variety of businesses and non-profits in Atlanta, from Habitat for Humanity to United Parcel Service Inc.

Dr. Addleton, whose family has deep roots in Middle Georgia, was born in Pakistan, where his parents were Christian missionaries, and he spent much of his childhood there. He earned a journalism degree from Northwestern University and later a doctorate in international studies from Tufts University, specializing in the economics of migration, before joining USAID which helps countries fight poverty and institute democratic reforms.

He assumed the ambassador's post in Mongolia in November and was on a brief trip back in the U.S. on government business when he agreed to meet with GlobalAtlanta readers.

When asked by Atlanta travel consultant Janet Russell about tourism in Mongolia, the ambassador replied that visitors need a love of the outdoors and adventure.

"It's not a country with a lot of roads," said Dr. Addleton.

But with a Jeep, a driver and a guide, tourists can see stunning landscapes, the ambassador said.

"You have tourists who come from Korea and Japan just to see the night sky," he said.

He emphasized the importance of business relationships between the U.S. and Mongolia, a country situated between Russia and China that has a population of three million people, many of whom are nomads, raising yaks, camels, sheep and Cashmere goats.

"If you go back to the early 1900s, it's quite fascinating that there were American businessmen in Ulaanbaatar [the capital of Mongolia] basically dealing in furs and the tea trade," said Dr. Addleton.

After decades under heavy influence of the Soviet Union, Mongolia established formal diplomatic ties with U.S. in 1987.

"It's really amazing what's happened in the last 25 years," said Dr. Addleton.

He cited one company, Wagner Asia Equipment LLP, Mongolian agent for several U.S. companies including Caterpillar Inc.

"Wagner started off 10 years ago with $10 million in business," said Dr. Addleton. "They expect to do about $100 million this year."

With large deposits of coal, copper and gold, Mongolia represents a promising growth market, said Dr. Addleton.

"Some people say that over the next five or 10 years, Mongolia could rank among the fastest growing economies in the world, largely because of the mineral opportunities," he said.

Business links help ensure that the U.S.-Mongolian relationship remains strong, he added.

"In my view, long-term relationships do depend on depth of the commercial relationships," he said.


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