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Bush, Hu Discuss Contentious Issues During APEC Meeting

06 September 2007

U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed many contentious issues Thursday, including climate change and the safety of Chinese products sold in the United States. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Sydney, Australia, where the two leaders met for 90 minutes on the sidelines of this week's Asia-Pacific summit.

The meeting went on longer than expected. President Bush called it "constructive." President Hu termed it "candid."

During a brief session with reporters after the talks, both limited their comments to a rundown of the issues discussed. Those included Iran, North Korea and Sudan's Darfur region.

President Bush told reporters he also brought up his concerns about what the United States sees as an undervalued Chinese currency, and the safety of Chinese exports.

"And the president was quite articulate about product safety, and I appreciated his comments," said Mr. Bush.

The Chinese leader did not share those thoughts in public - at least not after his meeting with President Bush. But earlier in the day he commented at length about the product safety issue.

During a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, President Hu took on allegations that China is flooding the international market with unsafe products - goods that do not meet U.S. safety standards, among others.

"The first point I would like to make is the Chinese government has always taken the quality of Chinese products and the safety of Chinese food very seriously," Mr. Hu said. "And we have enforced very strict inspection and examination procedures throughout the whole process of manufacturing Chinese products."

The Chinese president almost never takes questions from reporters when traveling abroad, and White House officials say it was President Hu, and not Mr. Bush, who raised the safety issue during their meeting.

It is another sign China is only too aware of the damage done every time there is another report abroad of tainted Chinese exports - from lead paint on toys, to defective tires, to poisoned pet food.

All this comes as Beijing is preparing to host the 2008 summer Olympics. President Bush says he received a personal invitation from Mr. Hu.

"He extended an invitation to me and Laura and our family to come to the Olympics. And of course, I was anxious to accept," Mr. Bush said.

U.S. officials later confirmed the Mr. Bush will go to the Olympics. However, they stressed he will attend as a sports fan and not to make a political statement.

While the talks with Hu Jintao were wide-ranging, they did not touch on the Iraqi conflict. But Iraq dominated a meeting Thursday between Mr. Bush and Australian opposition leader, Kevin Rudd.

Rudd - who has called for the withdrawal of all Australian troops from Iraq - is leading Prime Minister John Howard in public-opinion polls with parliamentary elections expected in just a few months. He says he explained his stand to Mr. Bush.

"I understand and accept fully that President Bush and Mr. Howard are good friends. We covered a whole lot of stuff," Rudd said. "I simply indicated what our position had been (on Iraq) from the beginning."

On Friday, President Bush is due to meet with the presidents of Russia and South Korea. He will also address a meeting of business leaders being held in conjunction with the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

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