Lee to visit Cambodia for talks on trade, region

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Lee to visit Cambodia for talks on trade, region

President Lee Myung-bak will visit Cambodia next week for a series of regional summits with the newly mandated U.S. president, Barack Obama, and other leaders about freer trade and other cooperation in the region, his office announced yesterday.

The three-day visit to Phnom Penh starting Sunday is part of Lee’s two-nation trip that will also take him to the United Arab Emirates for talks expected to focus on increasing atomic power and other energy cooperation between the two countries.

In Phnom Penh, Lee will attend a trio of annual meetings: a summit with the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean); a meeting between Asean and Korea, China and Japan; and a meeting of the East Asia Summit (EAS) forum.

Both Lee and Obama are scheduled to attend the 18-nation EAS forum. It will be their first meeting since the American president won re-election last week, though it is unclear whether they will be able to find time for a separate bilateral meeting because of tight schedules, officials said.

The most concrete outcome from the series of summits is expected to be a declaration among 16 of the 18 EAS member countries to launch free trade negotiations to forge what is dubbed the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”

The EAS forum consists of the 10 Asean states, Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. All but the U.S. and Russia are committed to attending the negotiations aimed mainly at lowering barriers to trade and promoting freer flow of goods and services.

On Tuesday, Lee will head to Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates for summit talks with President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan about increasing cooperation in various areas, especially atomic power plant, energy, trade and investment, and science and technology.

Lee and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan are also scheduled to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for two power-generating nuclear reactors, Barakah nuclear power plant unit 1 and 2, to be built by Korean firms.

Korea and the UAE have strengthened their ties in recent years. The construction of two reactors is part of a massive $40 billion contract awarded to Korean in 2009 to build a total of four nuclear reactors in the Middle Eastern nation.

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