US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged major economies to ensure transparency by state-backed companies, saying that all countries would benefit from a "rules-based system."
Senior officials from the Group of 20 major economies are holding two days of talks in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos, a deliberately informal setting aimed at sparking dialogue ahead of a full G20 summit in June.
Some of the world's top diplomats started their day with a group trip to watch the plentiful whales off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. Aides said that Clinton was able to come into close contact with one of the ocean giants.
Clinton, speaking later to a sit-down session Sunday, called on the Group of 20 -- which represents some 85 percent of the global economy -- to address the rise of "state capitalism" in the global economy.
While acknowledging that the US record was not perfect, Clinton said all countries that "benefit from open, free, transparent and fair competition have a vital interest in protecting it and a responsibility to follow the rules."
"Enough of the world's commerce now takes place with the developing economies in this room that the failure of any group of nations to participate in the rules-based system would render the entire system unworkable. And that would impoverish all of us," she said.
Clinton said the G20 could find a model in the so-called Santiago Principles, the guidelines offered in 2008 under the International Monetary Fund calling for transparency by state-owned investment bodies known as sovereign wealth funds.
"We need to develop similar understandings to ensure that companies compete on a level playing field, whether their owners sit in corporate boardrooms or in government ministries," Clinton said.
The United States, where direct government involvement in business is politically taboo, has long complained about what it sees as unfair advantages enjoyed by state-backed companies in emerging competitors such as China.
Washington has complained over what it charges is Chinese state support for key industries such as solar and other clean energy. President Barack Obama last week called for China to follo
Clinton also voiced hope that the Group of 20 members would work on hotspot issues such as the escalating violence in Syria and the growing tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
The Group of 20, formed in 2008 amid the global financial crisis, includes major developed and developing nations. Mexico invited a number of nations outside the usual group including Cambodia and Benin as representatives of Southeast Asian and African nations.
However, only nine foreign ministers are taking part in the talks. Russia, China, India and Brazil, which lead the important bloc of emerging economies, are not represented on the ministerial level.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, who won wide praise for pushing ahead climate change negotiations in a 2010 conference in Cancun, said the G20 meeting aimed at advancing key issues without the pressure of making immediate decisions.
"There are many important issues that affect the lives of billions of people across the world on which the international community is failing to make any discernible progress," Espinosa said.
She mentioned issues such as green growth, sustainable development and the rule of law.
"It is only natural that governments promote their own interests, but they must do so in a way that takes into account global needs transcending narrow national interests," she said.
Meanwhile, G20 finance ministers and central bank heads were expected to meet in Mexico next weekend to discuss way to increase funding for the International Monetary Fund in the face of a financial crisis in Europe.