In Hong Kong yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly addressed several major economic issues, chief among them the ongoing fracas in Washington over raising the U.S. debt ceiling before an August 2 deadline.
In a speech co-organized by several local branches of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Asia Society Hong Kong, Clinton conceded that "the political wrangling in Washington is intense right now."
But, she continued, "these kinds of debates have been a constant in our political life throughout the history of our republic. And sometimes, they are messy. ... But this is how an open and democratic society ultimately comes together to reach the right solutions.
"So I am confident that Congress will do the right thing and secure a deal on the debt ceiling, and work with President Obama to take the steps necessary to improve our long-term fiscal outlook."
Clinton's remarks were widely seen here as intended to reassure China. With holdings of more than $1 trillion in U.S. treasury bonds, China is the largest holder of American debt in the world, and has been closely, if quietly, monitoring the U.S. debt ceiling debate.
The Secretary also urged Asian countries to adopt a more multilateral approach in trade and economic matters. She cautioned against a "hodgepodge" of bilateral agreements that could potentially impede true regional integration.
Reiterating that theme, Clinton lauded Hong Kong as "a testament to the power of transparency, good governance, the rule of law, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, and a vibrant civil society, all of which help to explain why so many people choose to do business here."
Watch Hillary Clinton's speech (41 min., 57 sec.)