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Brown cautions US Congress on 'protectionism'

Latest update : 2009-03-04

Following talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addressed Congress Wednesday, cautioning the lawmakers that protectionism "protects no one".

AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the United States Wednesday to resist protectionist impulses and work with "your friend Europe" and other partners to revive the ailing global economy.

"We should seize the moment -- because never before have I seen a world so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching," Brown said.

In a landmark speech before the US Congress, he urged US lawmakers to resist the temptation to erect trade barriers as they battle to kickstart the world's top economy facing its greatest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one?" the British prime minister asked.

"No. We should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us."

Brown urged US lawmakers -- who recently passed a "Buy American" clause in an 800-billion-dollar spending bill -- to resist the protectionist forces that could deepen the crisis.

"America knows from its history that its reach goes far beyond its geography," he said. "If these times have shown us anything, it is that the major challenges we all face are global."

"For a century you have carried upon your shoulders the greatest of responsibilities: To work with and for the rest of the world. And let me tell you that now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work with you," he said.

The prime minister, just the fifth British prime minister to address the combined Senate and House of Representatives, underlined that US President Barack Obama, who took office January 20, could now count on "the most pro-American European leadership in living memory."

It is "a leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together, in order to be a stronger partner for you. There is no old Europe, no new Europe, there is only your friend Europe," he said, in a reference to bitter trans-Atlantic divisions over the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Brown also announced that Queen Elizabeth II had bestowed an honorary knighthood on Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, a key Obama ally, in large part for his work in promoting peace in Northern Ireland.

The ailing Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last year, said in a statement he was "deeply grateful" and declared: "For me this honor is moving and personal."

"I accept this honor in the spirit in which it is given, with a continuing commitment to be a voice for the voiceless and for the shared ideals of freedom and fairness which are so fundamental to the character of our two countries," said Kennedy, 77.

Brown, who met with Obama Tuesday to seek support for a campaign to overhaul the global financial system, said the paralyzing recession had left people "anxious" and "insecure" but promised better days ahead.

"Over the next two decades our world economy will double in size -- twice as many opportunities for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest expansion of middle class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen," he said.

Brown said at the White House on Tuesday that global powers could reach a "new deal" on overhauling the world's crippled financial system within months.

Obama agreed on global collaboration to handle future financial crises, but did not give a specific, public endorsement of Brown's calls for a sweeping new global regulatory framework.

Brown was laying the groundwork for G-20 crisis talks, which he will host in London in April.

In the next few months a global "new deal" could be reached in which every nation would be involved in "sorting out and cleaning up the banking system," Brown told reporters in the Oval Office.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair spoke to Congress in July 2003; Margaret Thatcher in February 1985; Winston Churchill in January 1952, May 1943, and December 1941, the most of any individual; and Clement Attlee in November 1945.

Date created : 2009-03-04