Obama, Hu differ on issues, but make $45 bn business deals

January 20th, 2011 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Jan 20 (IANS) US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao continued to disagree on issues ranging from economics to human rights but pledged cooperation to stabilise their relations and struck business deals worth a whopping $45 billion.Obama welcomed Hu with full fanfare, receiving him Wednesday morning at the White House with a 21-gun salute and by a colour guard that included a pipe and drum band in colonial American dress before heading to talks in the Oval office.

On Wednesday evening, Hu was feted with a state dinner at the White House with more pomp and ceremony. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Obama’s Democratic Party nearly played spoilsport by referring to Hu in an interview as a “dictator”.

Reid also did not attend the formal state dinner though a Reid aide insisted the two aren’t connected. Reid could not make the dinner because he “is traveling back from Nevada and it takes all day”, he said.

At an hour-long press conference after the morning talks, Hu asserted that China has made major progress on human rights issues but acknowledged that it could do more. He also committed to easing regulations to increase foreign firms’ access to Chinese markets, a growing source of complaints for US businesses.

Meeting Hu, in his eighth meeting, Obama repeated his assertions that the Chinese currency is undervalued and that China needs to take steps to see that competition between the two powers is on a “level playing field”.

“A positive, constructive, cooperative US-China relationship is good for the United States,” Obama said, suggesting neither country should “view every issue through the lens of rivalry”.

Obama reiterated that the United States does not intend to try to “contain” China, but hopes to benefit from its rapid and peaceful growth.

Asked whether the US should seek to expand its business partnership with China despite widespread criticism of its human-rights record, Obama said he had “been very candid with President Hu about these issues. Occasionally, they are a source of tension between our two governments”.

But, he said, “We can engage and discuss these issues in a frank and candid way, focus on those areas where we can agree while acknowledging there are areas where we are going to disagree”.

Asked about China’s human rights record, Hu said: “China is always committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. China has also made enormous progress recognised widely in the world.”

At the same time, Hu spoke of “different national circumstances” between his country and the United States. “China still faces many challenges in economic and social development, and a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights,” Hu said.

“We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people and to promote democracy and the rule of law.”

He also suggested that Obama and the US must recognise a “principle of non-interference” with China’s internal policies.

Both leaders repeatedly emphasised their intentions to deepen their cooperation, even while they continue to disagree on many aspects of their complex relationship.

But at the end of the day White House announced $45 billion worth of US-China business deals, which Obama said would produce 235,000 American jobs, many in manufacturing. In one major deal, China will buy 200 Boeing aircraft for $19 billion.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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