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US to strengthen Cambodia’s infrastructure

The US planned to aid the development of Cambodia’s infrastructure with public-private partnerships as part of an effort to renew the Kingdom’s outdated image, a State Department official said yesterday.

Speaking to a media round-table, Lorraine Hariton, the US State Department’s special representative for commercial and business affairs, said: “We identified a couple of really good opportunities in Cambodia. One was around the airport.  We hope we can put the resources of the US government together with the resources of senior executives so that we can, in partnership with [the Cambodian] government, be successful.”

The plans emerged from a seminar on infrastructure development as part of the Lower Mekong Initiative.

Representatives of the US departments of state and commerce met this week with the Vietnamese ministries of foreign affairs and transport in collaboration with the US-ASEAN Business Council.

Hariton suggested that a company found on a recent trip to Vietnam had the capability and the financing to develop Cambodian airports. She also hinted that a Cambodian official was interested in the co-operation.

The US plans to export the necessary technologies and expertise to develop Cambodian infrastructure.

“We want to bring Cambodia up in this value chain. The young generation is getting really good at software development,” Hong-Phong B. Pho, desk officer for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia at the International Trade Administration, said.

Human-rights issues, however, remain a concern.

Daniel Mitchell, the chief executive of Grandis Timber and managing director of SRP International Group, said: “One of the best ways to address the human-rights issues is to address the economic causes that have diluted them. American companies have high standards, so one way to address those issues is to promote responsible investments.”

The round-table noted, however, that Cambodia’s image as a business environment would have to improve to attract greater investment.

A recent World Bank report projected greater investment in the region from China during the coming year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Thust at sarah.thust@phnompenhpost.com

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