September 23, 2009 / 10:58 AM / 10 years ago

Palin's maiden trip to Asia spotlights China-U.S. ties

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Sarah Palin, accused during her 2008 U.S. vice presidential campaign of having a limited knowledge of foreign affairs, travelled to Hong Kong to push on Wednesday for stronger ties and trade with China.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin attends the annual CLSA Investors' Forum in Hong Kong September 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Topping/CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets/Handout

Palin, making her first visit to the region, criticised President Barak Obama’s administration over healthcare reforms, spending and imposing duties on Chinese tires.

The former Republican Party VP candidate spoke at length on China, underscoring its poor human rights record, but calling for a “more robust” relationship overall.

She described the Obama administration’s move this month to impose additional duties on Chinese-made tires as “perhaps a mistake”.

“That sends a message to China that the U.S. is going to play tough, which is great, but at a time of recession we don’t want to get into any kind of trade war right now either,” she said.

China hotly protested the decision and launched its own anti-dumping investigation of automotive and chicken parts imports from the United States, whose combined value was roughly equivalent to the value of the contested tire shipments.

Palin’s speech to a packed audience of financial professionals in the former British colony was closed to media, but Reuters obtained a tape-recording.

The event marked her first major public appearance since abruptly resigning as governor in July.

Some Republicans would like to see her run for president in 2012, while party elders consider her a key power-broker able to rally conservative voters with her folksy, down-to-earth values as a working mother of five.

Palin didn’t clarify what her plans might be in her speech, which attacked the widening U.S. fiscal deficit and Obama’s health-care reforms.

“It’s just common sense to realize the government’s attempts to solve large problems like the health-care challenges that we have, more often creates new ones.”

“If you want real job growth, you cut taxes and reduce marginal tax rates on all Americans ... Cut payroll taxes, eliminate capital gains taxes, slay the death tax,” she said.

“Get federal spending under control then you step back and you watch the U.S. economy roar back to life.”

Palin came to prominence last year when presidential candidate John McCain picked her as his running mate in the election he eventually lost to Barack Obama.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) stands beside CLSA's CEO Jonathan Slone during the annual CLSA Investors' Forum in Hong Kong September 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Topping/CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets/Handout

Her surprise decision to resign as governor raised questions about her next move.

She had cited a variety of reasons for quitting — the burden of fighting nearly two dozen ethics charges, her desire to avoid being perceived as a “lame duck” governor, and a “higher calling”, among others.

Her inexperience in foreign affairs was spotlighted during the 2008 electoral campaign when the former beauty queen was ridiculed for saying her foreign policy experience was bolstered by Alaska’s proximity to Russia across the Bering Strait.

Editing by Bill Tarrant

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