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Brown urges US not to succumb to protectionism

Thursday, March 5th 2009 - 17:05 UTC
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Brown Tells Congress To 'Seize This Moment' Brown Tells Congress To 'Seize This Moment'

Gordon Brown has received a standing ovation from the US Congress after he called for a renewal “of the special relationship for our generation”. Mr Brown, the fifth UK prime minister in history to address both houses on Capitol Hill, urged the US and UK to push for “essential” economic changes.

Neither nation should “succumb” to protectionism “which protects no-one”, but “seize the moment”, he said.

Mr Brown announced Senator Ted Kennedy would get an honorary UK knighthood.

The prime minister paid tribute to the work of US troops in Afghanistan and said terrorists could “not ever destroy the American spirit”.

The partnership between the UK and the US is “unbreakable” and that “no power on earth can ever draw us apart”, he also said.

The speech began to a standing ovation and was frequently interrupted for applause - with 17 such pauses counted.

Mr Brown called for agreed “rules and standards for accountability, transparency and reward” in banking.

On the recession, he said: “America and a few countries cannot be expected to bear the burden of the fiscal and interest rate stimulus alone. We must share it globally.

”So let us work together for the worldwide reduction of interest rates and a scale of stimulus round the world equal to the depth of the recession and the dimensions of the recovery we must make.“

Mr Brown added: ”An economic hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and of confidence.

“History has brought us now to a point where change is essential. We are summoned not just to manage our times but to transform them.”

In addressing Congress, Mr Brown follows in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

He said: “Now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work with you...

”And let me say that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in living memory; a leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together, in order to cooperate more closely with you.

“There is no old Europe, no new Europe. There is only your friend Europe.

”So once again I say we should seize the moment - because never before have I seen a world willing to come together so much. Never before has that been more needed.“

Announcing the honorary knighthood for Ted Kennedy, Mr Brown said that ”Northern Ireland is today at peace, more Americans have healthcare, more children around the world are going to school“ because of the veteran Democratic Senator.

The world owed ”a great debt to [his] life and courage“, he added.

Conservative Party acting leader William Hague told the BBC that without ”accompanying action“, Mr Brown's words on the economy would not ”go very far“.

He added: ”If he's not prepared to acknowledge that mistakes have been made then he won't be able to communicate or implement the solutions for the future.“

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said: ”Gordon Brown seemed to offer a lot of warm words but very few hard plans to fight the recession which has engulfed the world economy and his government.

“Rather than trying to shore up his reputation in America, he should be focusing his attention on fixing the mess we face back home.”

After Mr Brown's meeting with Barack Obama on Tuesday, the US president said the “special relationship” between the countries would “only grow stronger”.

After about an hour of talks at the White House, Mr Brown and Mr Obama said they agreed that improvements were needed to the regulation of the global banking system.

Mr Obama warned that countries should not “project inwards” by encouraging protectionism during the economic crisis. Mr. Brown said the two countries were pursuing a “common interest” in a “global new deal”.

The prime minister's US visit comes ahead of a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging economies in London on 2 April.

The EU and Canada have warned that a “buy American” clause in the US economic recovery package could promote protectionism.

It seeks to ensure that only US iron, steel and manufactured goods are used in construction work funded by the bill - but has included a pledge to respect international trade obligation.

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