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US ‘Committed’ to Region’s Economy, Trade Diplomat Says

Oxfam's activists wear masks depicting leaders of the G7 countries outside the European Council in Brussels, Belgium.   The masks represent, from left, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Japanase Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
PHNOM PENH - The US is committed to strong economic activity in Southeast Asia, a senior US diplomat said at a round table discussion in Cambodia Tuesday.

However, Lorrain Hariton, US State Department Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, said the region still needs a strong infrastructure that would act as a backbone for the economic growth in the region.

“The reason I am here as representative is to make sure that we can make that all happen, and that we are committed to moving forward in partnership with the business community to make that happens,” she said.

Hariton was in Phnom Penh following a meeting in Hanoi to discuss infrastructure in the countries of the lower Mekong River.

“Cambodia now is not just Cambodia,” said Pho Hong Phong, a US Commerce Department official. The country is among those in the Lower Mekong Initiative and a member of Asean and its potential market of hundreds of millions of people. “American companies want to do business in Cambodia,” he said.

Chan Sophal, head of the Cambodian Economists Association, said there is “room” to invest in Cambodia, from factories to farmland, in tourism and hotels. What Cambodia lacks is capital and management resources, as well as technology, he said.

US companies are the fifth-most invested here in dollar terms, with more than $1.2 billion in investments over the last decade. Cambodian exports to the US for the first 11 months of last year reached $2.49 billion, a 1 percent increase year on year. Its imports of US goods grew 26 percent for that period, reaching $213 million.