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US, Mekong states reaffirm ties

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Minister Prak Sokhonn (bottom right) during the second Mekong-US Partnership Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Tuesday. FOREIGN MINISTRY

US, Mekong states reaffirm ties

Cambodia and the other Mekong countries have all reaffirmed their commitment to work with the US to end the Covid-19 pandemic and begin the region’s economic recovery from the crisis.

The consensus on cooperation was reached at the second Mekong-US Partnership Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on August 3, held via video conference.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken co-chaired the meeting.

“The ministers reiterated the need for continued cooperation in eradicating the Covid-19 pandemic, preventing future outbreaks and the post-Covid-19 recovery,” according to a press release from the foreign ministry.

Sokhonn was quoted as saying at the meeting that Cambodia is ready to continue joint efforts to fight Covid-19, address common challenges including but not limited to climate change and transnational crimes and effectively promote socio-economic recovery.

According to the press release, Cambodia and the other Mekong countries – Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar – commended the US for pledging $52 million in further assistance to the Mekong sub-region.

Sokhonn noted that the Mekong sub-region has a total population of 240 million people – 40 per cent of whom are under the age of 25 – making it an attractive hub for the light manufacturing industry that is ready for further integration into the global supply chain.

He added that the US exports roughly $26 billion in goods and services to the Mekong sub-region and in turn imports about $89.94 billion in goods from there.

“Cambodia hopes to see more private sector investment in tourism, small and medium enterprises and other priority sectors in the country, with support from the US and its allies to boost economic growth during and after Covid-19,” he said.

Sokhonn expressed his support for the Gender Equality Policy Dialogue initiative, which focuses on advancing women’s economic empowerment during the post-Covid-19 recovery while promoting women’s leadership and preventing and responding to gender-based violence.

He said these programmes will provide useful input and recommendations on how to empower women and contribute to social progress in Cambodia and that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is ready to work with the US and other Mekong states to achieve this common goal.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, told The Post on August 4 that the US is one of the key development partners of the Mekong countries.

He noted that in terms of Covid-19 vaccine donations alone, the US has provided more than eight million doses to the region, including more than one million to Cambodia. He said the US’ 110 million vaccine doses donated globally to date is greater than donations made by every other country combined.

“At the second Mekong-US foreign ministers meeting, the US pledged to further support the Mekong countries in the combat against the pandemic and with their socio-economic recovery. This signals a clear strategic intention by the US to increase its presence and influence in the region,” he said.

Sokhonn will next join the 14th Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers Meeting on August 6, also held via video conference.

That meeting will be chaired by Japan and will similarly be attended by the Mekong sub-region foreign ministers from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

The foreign ministry said the meeting will review the progress of Mekong-Japan cooperation in various areas and plan out the future direction of these cooperative efforts for promoting sustainable development and enhancing social, economic and cultural interconnections among Mekong countries and Japan.

The ministers will also discuss how to bring about a more vibrant and interconnected Mekong sub-region in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and other emerging challenges, while exchanging views on regional and international issues of common interest and concern.

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