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Bush pushes Hu on bilateral trade

He feels trade disputes should be dealt with a spirit of mutual respect and a desire to work for the comon good.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2006 11:33 IST

US President George W Bush has said that he would like to see China as "a nation of consumers" buying more American products, while Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed satisfaction at a sharp increase in US imports.

Bush, in Hanoi to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, held talks with Hu and later was to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin before flying on to Ho Chi Minh City to wrap up his first visit to Vietnam.

Bush is under pressure from American manufacturers to increase exports to China. The United States' year-to-date trade deficit with China reached $166.3 billion in September and was likely to easily outrun last year's record of $202 billion.

Bush gave Hu a nudge on the subject saying the wide amount of commerce between the two nations meant that trade disputes were inevitable but that they could be addressed in a "spirit of mutual respect and a desire to work through our problems for the common good of our peoples."

"I strongly support your vision of encouraging your country to become a nation of consumers and not savers," Bush said, and added that this would benefit US manufacturers and farmers.

Hu, speaking before Bush and anticipating his concerns, said he wanted to share some good news and cited US statistics that showed US exports to China jumped 35 per cent in the first seven months of the year.

"Actually our trade has ... been expanding quite rapidly," Hu said.

Both leaders went out of their way to praise the current state of US-Chinese relations. The United States has considered China a key player in persuading North Korea to return to six-party talks over its nuclear weapons and needs Chinese help on Iran's nuclear ambitions as well.

"China is a very important nation and the United States believes strongly that by working together we can help solve problems such as North Korea and Iran," Bush said.

Stepping up the pressure on Vietnam over religious freedoms, Bush began his day by attending a church service with wife Laura at Hanoi's ornate cathedral.

The United States had dropped Vietnam from its list of nations that severely violate religious freedom ahead of Bush's visit, citing improvement in its tolerance for religious expression. But Bush said on Friday it remained a subject of concern.

"A whole society is a society that welcomes basic freedom and there is no more basic freedom than the freedom to worship as you see fit," Bush told reporters after attending the packed service.

He urged governments around the world to "feel comfortable" with letting their citizens worship in their own ways.

First Published: Nov 19, 2006 11:33 IST