China on Friday sought to play down a threat by Google Inc to quit the country on hacking and censorship concerns, saying any decision by the Internet search giant would not affect US trade ties.
The United States said it was too soon to tell how economic ties would be affected, but added free information flow was crucial to China's maturing economy.
A spokesman for China's Commerce Ministry said there were many ways to resolve the Google issue, but repeated that all foreign companies, Google included, must abide by Chinese laws.
The issue risks becoming another irritant in China's relationship with the United States, already strained by arguments over the Chinese currency's exchange rate, trade protectionism and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The United States has backed Google's decision to no longer support China's censoring of Internet searches, and has raised the issue at a diplomatic level.
"It seems to me that the principles that Google is trying to uphold are not just important in a moral or rights framework, but are also of very considerable economic importance," senior White Senior White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said.
When asked if the dispute with Google would mark a turning point in the US economic relationship with China, Summers replied, "I think it's too early to assess what all of the effects will be."
Playing down the concerns raised by rival Google Inc, Microsoft Corp said it had no plan to pull out of China.