HONG KONG — Former U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, criticized for her lack of foreign policy experience, emerged in Asia on Wednesday to share her views from "Main Street U.S.A." with a group of high-flying global investors.
In her first trip to the region, the former Alaska governor addressed an annual conference of investors in Hong Kong in what was billed as a wide-ranging talk about governance, economics and U.S. and Asian affairs.
Two US delegates left early, according to AFP, with one saying "it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer." He declined to be identified.
"I'm going to call it like I see it and I will share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A.," Palin told a room full of asset managers and other finance professionals, according to a video of part of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. "And how perhaps my view of Main Street ... how that affects you and your business."
Palin spoke out against government intervention in the economy. "We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place," Palin said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom," she added.
She also praised the conservative economic policies of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to another attendee who declined to be named because he didn't want to be seen as speaking on behalf of his company.
She claimed that if taxes were cut and the capital gains tax and estate tax eliminated, the world would "watch the U.S. economy roar back to life."
Palin argued that many average Americans are uncomfortable with health care reforms that infringe on private enterprise, Chris Palmer, an American fund manager for Gartmore Investment Ltd., told reporters.
She didn't refer to President Barack Obama by name, the Wall Street Journal reported, but said she called his campaign promises "nebulous, utopian sounding... Now 10 months later, though, a lot of Americans are asking: more government? Is that the change we want?"
Some attendees were disappointed by her focus on her home state and her attacks on President Obama.
"As fund managers we want to hear about the United States as a whole, not just about Alaska," one told AFP. "And she criticized Obama a lot but offered no solutions."
Palin also said she believes the U.S. has a role in helping China find its future and that the U.S. will always be on the side of promoting freedom, according to Palmer.
In an apparent reference to tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese that have led to riots, Palin mentioned China's ethnic problems, arguing they are "a sign that China lacks mechanisms to deal with regional issues," Palmer said.
The speech marked Palin's first major appearance since she resigned as governor in July, and the speech's location and international scope could help boost her credentials ahead of a possible bid for president in 2012. While she's thought to be considering that, her Hong Kong trip bore no political overtones, said Fred Malek, a friend and Palin adviser.
"You can read a lot of things into it, 'Is she trying to burnish her foreign policy credentials?' and the like. But really, it's a trip that will be beneficial to her knowledge base and will defray some legal and other bills that she has," Malek said.
Palin aides refused to disclose her fee for the appearance, which has been rumored to be in the low six figures.
Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday the group knew little about Palin's speech.
"We're curious as to what she's willing to say in private but not in public," Sevugan said. "Are there other countries that she can see from her window that she doesn't want us to know about?"
AP reporters Min Lee and Dikky Sinn in Hong Kong, Beth Fouhy in New York and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
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