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Huntsman: Romney, Obama rhetoric on China 'doesn't help'

Aggressive campaign rhetoric against China will set the United States back no matter who the next American president is, former U.S. ambassador to China and 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said.

“It doesn't help the relationship,” Huntsman, speaking with NBC News after a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution, said when asked about the Obama and Romney campaigns’ sparring over who’s tougher on China.

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“Let’s just say it sets us back by putting us behind in terms of the makeup work that must be done once you’re in office. So instead of being able to start a dialogue on Day One that really begins to address problem-solving and relationship-building, you’re, in a sense, in a penalty box.”

He added that such a delay “wastes valuable time” that should be spent building what is “probably the most complicated relationship in the world.”

When asked what a President Mitt Romney or Barack Obama could do to mend relations once in office, Huntsman said their posture towards China will have to change “because it becomes real. It’s no longer political rhetoric; it’s the reality of managing a very complicated relationship.” He declined, however, to “speculate” on what sorts of policies either would pursue after the election.

As to whether he has consulted on China with his former presidential rival, whom he endorsed after dropping out of the race in January, Huntsman said “I’m not consulting with anybody, other than my family.”