US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday warned that some nations are "making short-term gains" by flouting global trade rules, in an apparent swipe at Beijing amid ongoing trade rows.
"No nation is perfect when it comes to safeguarding (trade) principles, including my own -- we all recognise the temptation to bend them," Clinton told business leaders in Hong Kong Monday as she wrapped up an Asian tour.
"Some nations are making short-term gains doing that."
Clinton added that "a number of nations, wealthy in the aggregate but often poorer per capita, might even think the rules don't apply to them."
The top US diplomat did not name China, but her calls for "rigorous reforms" in global trade come as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to simmer over several issues, from China's currency to export restrictions.
Some US firms have complained about restrictions on doing business in China while Washington has led calls for Beijing to boost the value of its yuan currency, which critics say is artificially undervalued to boost its exports.
China's politically sensitive trade surplus -- a sore spot for major trading partners the US and Europe -- expanded to $22.27 billion in June, rising sharply from the previous month as the value of exports hit a record high.
"We must seek a free system, one in which ideas, information, products and capital can flow unimpeded by unnecessary or unjust barriers," Clinton said Monday.
"The US believes that these (fair trade) principles should apply to us -- and to all."
Some firms are "forced to trade away their intellectual property just to enter or expand in a foreign market, or when vital supply chains are blocked," Clinton said. "These kinds of actions undermine fair competition," she added.
Foreign companies routinely accuse China of stealing their technology or forcing them to reveal trade secrets in order to access the local market, charges which Beijing denies.
While Americans must "save more and spend less," Clinton said Asian countries should base their long-term growth on "stronger and broader-based domestic demand" instead of just relying on exports to fuel their economies.