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'Billions' of Dollars in Deals Await Hun Sen in China

Prime Minister Hun Sen walks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, after reviewing the honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen left for China on Monday, where he is expected to sign agreements worth billions of dollars in energy, infrastructure and agriculture projects.

On Sunday, Hun Sen said he was prepared to meet with senior Chinese leaders and sign agreements on 15 different loan, aid and business projects, including the development of a coal-fired electric plant in Preah Sihanouk province. Those would be worth “billions,” he said, without elaborating.

Other projects include construction on 300 kilometers of roads off National Road 4 in Kampot province, irrigation canals and a second bridge linking Phnom Penh to the Chruoy Changvar peninsula between the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.

Hun Sen will be joined on his visit by the ministers of foreign affairs, commerce, industry, agriculture and transportation, among other senior officials.

Sri Thamrong, a spokesman for Hun Sen, told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday that the visit signified a relationship that was growing and improving in “all fields.”

The agreements could bring much needed development to Cambodian infrastructure, said Chan Sophal, president of the Economic Association of Cambodia.

“Cambodia needs infrastructure very much,” he said. “We still lack agricultural irrigation systems, bridges, roads and more. So I see the construction of this infrastructure as the right point that our economy needs.”

In November, China pledged $1.6 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Meanwhile, trade between the two countries continues to grow.

China has imported nearly $1 billion in goods to Cambodia this year, up from $881 million in 2009. Cambodia has exported $48 million in goods so this year, up from $16 million the year before.