ASEAN leaders call for more U.S. investments in infrastructures, energy, oil and gas

July 14, 2012 5:27 am 

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, July 14 — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday called for more U.S. investments in infrastructures, energy, oil and gas in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Addressing the U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum themed "Commitment to Connectivity" at Cambodia's Siem Reap province on Friday evening, Hun Sen said, "ASEAN, particularly Cambodia, wants to see more U.S. investments in the fields of energy, oil and gas. "

He said the current ASEAN's priority is "physical connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity" towards a community in 2015.

"To achieve this, ASEAN has provided high priority on the investments in trans-border infrastructures including transport, telecommunication, and energy," he told the forum, which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Myanmar President Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well as more than 70 U.S. company executives and dozens of cabinet ministers and senior policymakers from ASEAN governments.

"The forum was very vital to boost the ASEAN-U.S. ties through discussing and seeking solutions on challenging issues and drawing up direction for cooperation between ASEAN and the U.S.," Hun Sen said.

"I believe that the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here will give a vital encouragement to U.S investors and businesspeople to Cambodia and ASEAN," he said.

"Cambodia fully supports the U.S.'s foreign policy to increase and strengthen strategic partnership between the U.S. and ASEAN including partnership between governments and private sectors of all countries,"he added.

Also, he initiated ideas to enhance ASEAN-U.S. cooperation such as the establishment of the U.S. and ASEAN Free Trade Agreement or Comprehensive Economic Partnership to ensure that the U.S. and ASEAN have a practical program to boost the development of economic relation and cooperation for mutual benefits.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said that connectivity is at the heart of ASEAN community when the bloc becomes a single market – a production base – for 600 million people in 2015.

"Connectivity can help ensure that ASEAN becomes a high growth market with increasing opportunities," she said. "We, ASEAN, look forwards to enhancing economic relations between the U.S. and Southeast Asia."

She said currently, China, Japan, South Korea and India have been working with the Mekong region and ASEAN for connectivity. " We also welcome the growing U.S. interest in investing in connectivity in ASEAN."

Speaking at the forum, Hillary Clinton said that the forum was the largest U.S.-ASEAN Business event ever assembled in Cambodia, saying that the U.S. was certainly elevating its engagement across the board with Asia, especially ASEAN.

"Our economic ties are already strong. ASEAN and the U.S. are large trading partners," she said, adding that last year, U.S. export to ASEAN exceeded 76 billion U.S. dollars, up 42 percent since 2009.

"We have more than twice as much in investment in ASEAN as we do in China, so that is a great deal potential for continuing to grow our economic activities. We want to do more to deepen our economic partnership," she said.

U.S. businesspeople have begun to look into ASEAN business potentials after the Obama Administration elevated the U.S. engagement across Asia as a strategic priority of its foreign policy.

At the event, Hillary also appreciated growing ties between the U.S. and Myanmar.

"This week has been a milestone of the relationship between the U.S. and Myanmar. Two days ago, President Obama announced the U.S. is easing restrictions to allow more U.S. companies to do business in Myanmar," she said. "And tomorrow (July 14), the largest U.S. business delegation of over 70 businesses will meet with officials, businesses, and civil society in Myanmar."

Myanmar President Thein Sein said that after nearly a century, Myanmar has embarked on democratic path in building a new nation through peaceful transition.

"Myanmar is at a crucial juncture, where she has evolved from the military administration putting an end to armed conflict to achieve sustainable peace and moving toward a new democratic era while endeavoring for the development of the country," he said.

He said that the country is preparing to enact Myanmar Foreign Investment Law in the hope to attract more foreign investors.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (PNA/Xinhua) CTB/rsm

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