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Clinton in swipe at nations that flout trade rules
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) July 25, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday warned that some nations are "making short-term gains" by flouting global trade rules, in an apparent swipe at Beijing amid ongoing trade rows.

"No nation is perfect when it comes to safeguarding (trade) principles, including my own -- we all recognise the temptation to bend them," Clinton told business leaders in Hong Kong Monday as she wrapped up an Asian tour.

"Some nations are making short-term gains doing that."

Clinton added that "a number of nations, wealthy in the aggregate but often poorer per capita, might even think the rules don't apply to them."

The top US diplomat did not name China, but her calls for "rigorous reforms" in global trade come as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to simmer over several issues, from China's currency to export restrictions.

Some US firms have complained about restrictions on doing business in China while Washington has led calls for Beijing to boost the value of its yuan currency, which critics say is artificially undervalued to boost its exports.

China's politically sensitive trade surplus -- a sore spot for major trading partners the US and Europe -- expanded to $22.27 billion in June, rising sharply from the previous month as the value of exports hit a record high.

"We must seek a free system, one in which ideas, information, products and capital can flow unimpeded by unnecessary or unjust barriers," Clinton said Monday.

"The US believes that these (fair trade) principles should apply to us -- and to all."

Some firms are "forced to trade away their intellectual property just to enter or expand in a foreign market, or when vital supply chains are blocked," Clinton said. "These kinds of actions undermine fair competition," she added.

Foreign companies routinely accuse China of stealing their technology or forcing them to reveal trade secrets in order to access the local market, charges which Beijing denies.

While Americans must "save more and spend less," Clinton said Asian countries should base their long-term growth on "stronger and broader-based domestic demand" instead of just relying on exports to fuel their economies.

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Hong Kong lawmakers laud talks with Clinton
Hong Kong (AFP) July 25, 2011 - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged Monday to continue speaking out on China's human rights record, Hong Kong lawmakers who met with her said.

The top US diplomat held talks with four legislators from different Hong Kong political parties during her visit to the southern Chinese territory, after a separate meeting with its leader, Chief Executive Donald Tsang.

The 30-minute closed-door meeting touched on human rights in China among other issues, according to legislator Albert Ho, who said he urged the US to carry on being outspoken.

"Like any other countries, it is legitimate for the US to raise its concerns on China," Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party, told AFP.

"She responded positively and said the US will continue to be concerned, that it is on the top of the agenda and it will continue to maintain this dialogue (with China)," he said.

US remarks on Chinese human rights issues, including the detention of prominent artist Ai Weiwei and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, as well as on Tibet, have consistently angered China, which denounces foreign interference in its affairs.

Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, retains a semi-autonomous status with civil liberties including freedom of speech not enjoyed on the mainland.

The city's pro-democracy political camps, including Ho's party, have called for the release of political dissidents detained by Beijing, as well as lobbying for reforms in mainland China.

Audrey Eu, a Civic Party legislator who was also at the meeting with Clinton, said the Secretary of State told the group that "America and China will continue to have robust dialogue on human rights issues".

"She appreciates the Hong Kong model and hopes China will move towards the Hong Kong model," said Eu, adding Clinton did not specify if she was referring to economic development or human rights issues.

Clinton wraps up her Asian tour after meeting Chinese officials in southern China later Monday.

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Jakarta (UPI) Jul 22, 2011
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