Brown to take stage in US Congress

March 4, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Mar 4 – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday, after pushing his campaign for an overhaul of the global financial system in White House talks.

Brown took a break from political problems back home and became the first European leader to meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, and won an assurance that US-Britain ties were unbreakable.

He will be the fifth British prime minister to make the ceremonial address to US lawmakers, and was expected to caution that developed nations should not take refuge in protectionism as they battle global economic turmoil.

At the White House, Brown said global powers could agree a "new deal" within months on fundamental reforms of the world’s crippled financial system.

Obama agreed the world needed to work to head off future financial crises, but did not give a specific, public endorsement of Brown’s calls for a sweeping new global regulatory framework.

Brown laid the groundwork for G-20 talks on the global economic downturn which he will host in London in April.

"Look, there is the possibility in the next few months of a global new deal that will involve all the countries of the world in sorting out and cleaning up the banking system," Brown told reporters in the Oval Office.

"There is the possibility of all the different countries of the world coming together to agree the expansion in the economy that is necessary to restore confidence and to give people jobs and growth and prosperity for the future," he said.

"There is the possibility of the international institutions for the first time being reformed in such a way that they can do the job that people want them to do, and deal with some of the problems that exist in the poorest countries of the world."

Earlier, in an interview with National Public Radio, Brown had called for the rest of the world to adopt the new standards of transparency, accountability and regulation like Britain and the United States.

"There is a global banking collapse that we’re dealing with consequences of in every country," said Brown.

"I think there is a general understanding, whether you talk to China, whether you talk to the European Union or you talk to our great friends here in America, that we need to show that the world can come together."

Brown added that those that did not push through such measures on their banking systems should lose their prestige in the global financial community.

Obama said he and Brown had talked about coordinating how G-20 nations could stimulate their economies and adopt a "common set of principles" in banking to stop crisis ripple effects impact "onto our shores."

But the president did not specifically address Brown’s "new deal" plan or offer in-depth details of their talks.
His spokesman Robert Gibbs later said Obama believed it was important at the G-20 summit of developed and developing economies to establish "rules of the road" to head off future financial crisis.

Obama sought to downplay reports he was interested in loosening historic ties with Britain, partly fanned in the British press by reports that he had removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

"The special relationship between the United States and Great Britain is one that is not just important to me, it’s important to the American people," said the president.

"Great Britain is one of our closest, strongest allies and there is a link, a bond there that will not break."

Obama’s vanquished 2008 election rival Republican Senator John McCain also had kind words for Brown, who heads a Labour Party government that is trailing the opposition Conservative Party in opinion polls.

"I’m a great admirer of Gordon Brown’s," McCain said.

"He has a vision on how to address the global economy and I think we ought to consider seriously his proposal."

But Jon Kyl, like McCain a Republican senator from Arizona, accused Britain of failing to do enough to forestall Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

"Great Britain could be more helpful than it has been in support of US policies that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," Kyl told AFP.

"I appreciate that this economic crisis is very much on the minds of people both in Great Britain and the US, but strategically there are things we need to do to work together and I don’t like to see them ignored," he said.


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