Lee arrives in Cambodia for international talks

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Lee arrives in Cambodia for international talks

PHNOM PENH - President Lee Myung-bak arrived in Cambodia yesterday for a series of international summits, including one involving the newly re-elected U.S. president, Barack Obama, about freer trade and other cooperation issues in the region.

The three-day visit to Phnom Penh 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 and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, Lee plans to hold a meeting with Korean residents in Cambodia.

Today and tomorrow, 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, 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, including Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia, India, 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.

Lee’s summit with Asean is expected to center on reviewing recent progress in relations between the two sides, such as the conclusion of a free trade deal and the 2010 establishment of a strategic partnership, while discussing ways to further deepen the ties, officials said.

Asean has emerged as an increasingly important region to Korea, with a combined population of 600 million and the GDP totaling $2.15 trillion, officials said.

The 10-nation region is Korea’s second-largest trade and investment partner, with two-way trade volume amounting to $124.9 billion last year.

The Asean plus three summit, involving Asean nations plus Korea, China and Japan, is expected to discuss expanding the volume of a regional currency swap agreement, known as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, to strengthen the regional financial safety net.


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