Brown ends visit with address to Congress

Press Association
Wednesday 04 March 2009 15:51 GMT

Gordon Brown today rounded off his two-day visit to the United States with an address to Congress in which he called on America to take a lead in the world's battle against recession and climate change.

The Prime Minister urged the US political elite to "seize the moment" by joining Britain and the rest of the world in international co-operation to tackle the economic crisis and "build tomorrow today".

He delivered a tough warning against protectionism, warning that erecting trade barriers would "protect no-one", while the revival of free trade could end the recession and lead to a doubling in the size of the world economy over the coming two decades.

And he said America's inventiveness and "faith in the future" should be turned to the problem of halting global warming, telling Congressmen: "The nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon are also the nation with the vision to protect and preserve our planet Earth."

Mr Brown's message received a mixed response. His 35-minute address was interrupted on 16 occasions by standing ovations and he was applauded for almost two minutes as he left the chamber of the House of Representatives, shaking hands and signing copies of the speech.

But it was notable that Democrat Congressmen were more ready to cheer his appeals for action on banking reform, climate change and help for poorer nations.

Many Republicans were slow to rise to their feet during passages on the economy, and some seemed reluctant to applaud his proposals for global co-operation on tackling the recession.

Watched by wife Sarah, dressed in a blue and green plaid dress and pearls in the public gallery, the Prime Minister told Congressmen that countries in Europe and across the world were more ready than ever to work together with America. And he told them that now more than ever, the problems faced by the US are global in nature and can only be dealt with by co-ordinated international action.

"Let me say to you that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in living memory," he said. "A leadership that wants to co-operate more closely together, in order to co-operate 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 more willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And never before have the benefits of co-operation been so far-reaching."

Mr Brown believes that securing active US support is vital to his hopes of reaching agreement on a "global new deal" involving reform of international financial supervision, fiscal stimulus and bank restructuring at the G20 meeting of leading economies in London on 2 April.

In an upbeat message about the prospects of economic recovery, Mr Brown said: "I believe that ours is a time for renewal, for a plan for tackling recession and building for the future. Every continent playing their part in a global new deal, a plan for prosperity that can benefit us all."

A day after becoming the first European leader to hold face-to-face talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Mr Brown hailed his inauguration in January as a day which "gave the world renewed hope".

And the unspoken message of his address was that the replacement of George Bush with Mr Obama in the White House has created the circumstances for the US to tackle the world's most pressing problems with the eager support of nations around the globe.

Aware that many of his audience are pressing Mr Obama to focus on defending American jobs and companies against foreign imports during economic hard times, Mr Brown called on them to reassert their faith in global free trade.

"Should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us in the end protects no-one?" he asked.

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

Mr Brown was the fifth UK Prime Minister to be granted the honour of an address to both houses of Congress and he used the occasion to announce the award of an honorary knighthood to veteran Senator Edward Kennedy, for his services to the US-UK relationship and the Northern Ireland peace process.

Senator Kennedy is receiving treatment for a brain tumour and could not attend, but his son, Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, came forward at the end of the speech to acknowledge the honour to his father.

Evoking the British and American troops who have fought side by side from the Second World War to Afghanistan, Mr Brown hailed the special relationship as "unbreakable".

And he said that, just as it showed its value in times of war, it must now be applied to the "new priorities for our new times" - "a global economy in crisis and a planet imperilled".

Mr Brown has repeatedly resisted pressure to apologise for mistakes he may have made which have contributed to the economic crisis.

And in today's speech he left no doubt of his conviction that the downturn is not the result of flawed UK Government policy, but of global problems in the banking sector which have affected all countries in the world.

However he made no mention - as he often does when speaking in the UK - of the primary role of the US sub-prime mortgage market in sparking the downturn.

"An economic hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and confidence," said Mr Brown.

"We need to understand what went wrong in this crisis, that the very financial instruments that were designed to diversify risk across the banking system instead spread contagion across the globe. And today's financial institutions are so interwoven that a bad bank anywhere is a threat to good banks everywhere."

Describing the special relationship between the US and UK as "a partnership of purpose", Mr Brown promised Congress Britain's "continued support" to ensure there is no safe haven for terrorists.

And he said: "Alliances can wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible. Friendships can be shaken but our friendship is unshakeable. Treaties can be broken but our partnership is unbreakable.

"And I know there is no power on Earth that can drive us apart."

Mr Brown evoked the memory of Depression-era President Franklin Roosevelt, who devised the original New Deal to lift the USA out of the economic doldrums in the 1930s, as well as the American "visionaries" who created a new framework for global free trade following the Second World War.

And he said: "At this defining moment in history, let us renew our special relationship for our generation and our times. Let us restore prosperity and protect this planet and, with faith in the future, let us together build tomorrow today.

"Working together there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle that we cannot overcome, no aspiration so high that it cannot be achieved."

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