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Clinton: Budget Cuts Could Undermine US Influence

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a hearing on National Security and Foreign Policy Priorities in the Fiscal Year 2012 International Affairs Budget before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 2, 2011
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a hearing on National Security and Foreign Policy Priorities in the Fiscal Year 2012 International Affairs Budget before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 2, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says cutting funding for State Department programs could upset America's strategic interests around the world.

Speaking to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Wednesday, Clinton objected to cuts that would eliminate funding for the Asia Pacific region, where she said the U.S. is in competition with China for energy projects.

She said the United States risks losing out as China, in her words, "wines and dines'' Pacific leaders.

The committee chairman, Democrat John Kerry, said it is not the time for America to "pull back from the world."  He said a proposal to cut in half funding for humanitarian aid could risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world affected by natural disasters.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said the reason the State Department finds itself facing such cuts is because of the government's inability to control spending on much larger domestic programs, such as entitlements.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a 16 percent cut in funding this year for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Clinton also noted the United States should be doing more to capitalize on its investment in the Western Hemisphere.

She said despite funding Colombia's efforts to fight leftist FARC rebels and combat drug traffickers, the United States has still not been able to complete a free trade agreement with the country.  But, she said, America is watching as Colombia signs trade deals with Canada, the European Union and enters negotiations with China.

Clinton emphasized the trade relationship the United States has with Latin America, and said with the exception of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, many countries in the region have moved into "an era of sustainable democracy."

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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