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International relations

Japan makes infrastructure push into Southeast Asia

Cambodia first in line for smart, environmental urban development projects

Phnom Penh has been a hive of development activity in recent years, much of it paid for with Chinese money. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- Japan Inc. is launching a plan intended to make it a bigger development player in Southeast Asia, a region increasingly awash in Chinese money.

Cambodia is to be the first landing spot for the initiative, with about 60 Japanese trading companies, banks, general contractors and other parties already aboard. Through bilateral talks, Tokyo intends to advance urban development with focuses on the environment and so-called smart city infrastructure.

Japan's broader strategy is to deliver its solutions to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Asian Development Bank expects the region's infrastructure demand over the 30 years from 2016 to reach $3.1 trillion.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism this month will set up a framework to bring the project to Cambodia. Talks with the Philippine government have also begun.

In the bilateral talks, Japan will ask partner nations to adopt more transparent administrative procedures and take other steps to make it easier for Japanese companies to operate. Corporate executives are to join the talks to nail down the details of technical cooperation.

The recipient countries will decide on relatively underdeveloped areas that they want to benefit from Japan's technical assistance. The Japanese ministry plans to hold technical seminars and business matching opportunities for local and Japanese companies.

Institutions such as the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development, the Urban Renaissance Agency and the Japan Sewage Works Agency are also assisting.

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