PHNOM PENH, Oct 17 (Reuters) - China will provide $853 million in loans to Cambodia for infrastructure, irrigation and dam projects to boost its economy and reduce poverty, Cambodia's foreign minister said on Saturday.
The agreement was clinched on Friday when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on the sidelines of an economy and trade fair in Sichuan, Hor Namhong told reporters.
"China continues to help Cambodia's infrastructure development, even though China is itself faced with problems from the global economic crisis," he said.
China will provide $593 million for 11 projects proposed by Cambodia's government in 2009, in addition to $260 million for five projects requested last year, Namhong added.
The money will be invested in new roads near the borders of Thailand and Vietnam and the expansion of existing links to the capital of Phnom Penh.
At least $30 million will be invested in expanding the capacity of the Phnom Penh port to meet the increasing demand of cargo ships docked on Tonle Sap River.
Cambodia is keen to develop new dams and irrigation projects to boost its agriculture sector, which contributed 34 percent of gross domestic product last year, followed by the tourism and garment manufacturing sectors.
An estimated 30 percent of Cambodia's 14 million people live beneath the poverty line, earning less than a dollar per day.
China is Cambodia's biggest aid donor, providing $600 million in 2007 and about $260 million in 2008, according to the state-run Council for Development of Cambodia.
It is also Cambodia's biggest foreign direct investor and has pumped $1 billion into the Southeast Asian nation this year. (Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski)