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Obama, Hu vow to battle protectionism

US President Barack Obama and Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to fight protectionism and work to improve military ties at their first face-to-face meeting in London.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2009 13:38 IST

US President Barack Obama and Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to fight protectionism and work to improve military ties at their first face-to-face meeting in London.

Obama also accepted "with pleasure" an invitation to go to China in the second half of the year, the White House said after the pair met ahead of the Group of 20 summit.

The leaders agreed to "strengthen ties at all levels" ranging from the economy to fighting terrorism, and would expand consultations on "non-proliferation and other international security topics," the White House said.

"The two sides agreed to resume the human rights dialogue as soon as possible," the statement said.

China's state-run media said Thursday the meeting has set a vital foundation for greater cooperation between the two nations.

"One can hardly find an area where China-US cooperation is considered dispensable. The new commitment holds out promising prospects," Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.

"At a time when the international financial crisis continues to spread, it is in the primary common interests of China and the United States that the two countries support each other and work together to ride out the storm."

The People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's main mouthpiece, quoted Hu as telling Obama that relations between the two sides were at a critical juncture, with the world economic crisis underlining their common interests.

The China Daily echoed that idea.

"By working together despite their differences, China and the US can set an example for the rest of the world," it said in an editorial.

"Let's hope this partnership flourishes."

A recent US Defence Department report warning of China's growing military power angered Beijing. China cut off military exchanges last year over the planned US sale of weapons to Taiwan.

But Wednesday's White House statement said: "Both sides share a commitment to military-to-military relations and will work for their continued improvement and development."

Admiral Gary Roughead, US Chief of Naval Operations, will visit China in April to attend events for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army navy, the White House said.

"The two sides agreed to maintain close communication and coordination and to work together for the settlement of conflicts and reduction of tensions," including the North Korea and Iran nuclear crises, the Darfur conflict in Sudan and in South Asia, the statement said.

Obama and Hu "pledged that, as two major economies, the US and China will work together, as well as with other countries, to help the world economy return to strong growth and to strengthen the international financial system so a crisis of this magnitude never happens again."

But a senior US official said on condition of anonymity that neither leader mentioned recent tensions over China's recently expressed anxiety about its huge investments in the United States.

The warning by China's Central Bank chief suggesting the dollar could be replaced as a reserve currency by the IMF's basket comprising dollars, euros, sterling and yen did not come up either the official said.

Obama pledged to cut the US deficit in half to a "sustainable" level. The statement said Hu "emphasized his determination to strengthen and improve macroeconomic control and expand domestic demand, particularly consumer demand, to ensure sustainable growth."

"China and the United States agreed to work together to resolutely support global trade and investment flows that benefit all. To that end, they are committed to resist protectionism and ensure sound and stable US-China trade relations."

They discussed measures to "reform and strengthen the global financial system, including regulatory standards."

"The presidents agreed on the need for sweeping changes in the governance structure of international financial institutions," the statement said.

"President Hu and President Obama concluded that continued close cooperation between the United States and China was critical at this time to maintain the health of the world economy and would remain so in the future."

The two sides are to establish the "US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue" for which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo will chair the "Strategic Track" and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan will chair the "Economic Track".

The first talks will be held in Washington this summer in a bid to "advance mutually beneficial cooperation in economics and trade."

Obama accepted Hu's invitation to carry out a landmark visit to China.

"President Hu Jintao invited President Obama to visit China in the second half of this year, and President Obama accepted the invitation with pleasure," the White House statement said.

First Published: Apr 02, 2009 13:34 IST