WASHINGTON (AP) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on
Americans Wednesday to look up from their own tumbling financial
markets to see a world gripped by an "economic hurricane" that
could be turned around with U.S. help.
In a formal address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, Brown
asserted all is not bad. He predicted that the global economy could
double in size over the next 20 years as billions of people move
from being producers to consumers.
This ballooning market, Brown argued, presents unprecedented
opportunities, so long as governmental leaders understand that
their economic policies are felt all over the world.
"Should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism
that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one?" Brown
said to members of the House and Senate gathered together for his
talk. "No," he declared.
"We should have the confidence that we can seize the
opportunities ahead and make the future work for us," Brown added.
The prime minister's address, attended by the customary
parliamentary procedures and introductory niceties so well known to
Congress, was the first by a foreign leader since President Barack
Obama took office. It came as both Brown and Obama struggle to
increase investor confidence and repair damage to markets battered
by the U.S. housing crisis.
It also came as Brown, who trails behind the conservative
opposition in British opinion polls, was looking for his own
political boost. Supporters had hoped his appearance this week with
the popular U.S. president and plans to lead an international
economic summit next month would help shore up support for the
Brown's remarks were greeted with thunderous applause by U.S.
lawmakers assembled in the cavernous House chamber. Following the
speech, Brown was embraced by Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., whose
father Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., had been awarded honorary
knighthood by Britain.
Throughout his speech, Brown spoke of Americans' optimism in the
face of tough times, with nods to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
and President Ronald Reagan, as well as to Obama. On Jan. 20, when
Obama took office, Brown said that billions of people looked to
Washington "as a shining city upon a hill," invoking a famous
Brown referenced President George W. Bush once, noting his work
on Middle East peace talks. In declaring a new era of
trans-Atlantic relations, Brown took a swipe at Bush's defense
secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who once branded European critics of
the Iraq war as "Old Europe."
"There is no old Europe, no new Europe," Brown declared on
Wednesday. "There is only your friend Europe."
In light of this renewed relationship, Brown said, the U.S. and
Britain should work together to reduce interest rates worldwide and
help emerging markets rebuild their banks. He said the
international community must also agree to new standards for the
banking system that would improve accountability and transparency.
"Just think how each of our actions, if combined, could mean a
whole much greater than the sum of the parts," he said.
Brown was laying the groundwork for a G-20 economic summit of
advanced and developing nations meeting in London next month. The
summit, which Brown is chairing, is critical for improving global
economic confidence as well as Brown's political prospects.
Brown had met privately with Obama earlier in the week at the
White House, where the two discussed the economy and the war in
Afghanistan. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he did not
know if Obama saw Brown's speech to Congress, but added that the
president believes the two countries share a "very special
relationship" and "face many common challenges."
Despite a warm reception in Washington, Brown's remarks drew
swift rebukes back home. Vince Cable, deputy leader of the Liberal
Democrats, Britain's third party, said the prime minister should be
focused on domestic problems rather than trying to win favor with
"The prime minister spent over a decade actively promoting a
financial system devoid of morality and cuddling up to the bankers
who have caused this crisis, so his newfound desire for moral
markets smacks of hypocrisy," Cable said.