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Asean Leaders Seek US Trade Attention

  • Men Kimseng
  • VOA Khmer

Asean trade ministers spent a week in the US this month, meeting with congressmen, business leaders and policymakers in the capital and Seattle, to promote the region’s economic potential.

The 10-nation bloc of countries has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, but Asean leaders need to convince Americans to look at it as a single unit, Asean’s secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, said.

“We are part of Southeast Asia, which is expected to be a locomotive pulling the global economy along,” he said. “And I think in the past we have never disappointed them, and we want to do more.”

Asean has potential in automobile production, green technology and infrastructure, among others, he said.

Cambodia, “with more than 50 percent of its population below 20 years of age,” could be especially attractive to technology investors, Pan Sorasak, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, told VOA Khmer.

“There is also the potential for modernizing Cambodian rice production, which the US should consider investing in,” he said. “And there is tourism, where we can have cooperation among airlines.”

Cambodia lags behind other Asean countries in its human resources and infrastructure, but the bloc works to help members, he said, and members don’t compete for external partners.

Asean includes Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It is the fifth-largest trading partner and fourth-largest export market for the US, with two-way trade reaching nearly $180 billion in 2008, according to the US-Asean Business Council. US exports to Asean were more than $66 billion that year.