Brown Urges U.S. to Shun Protectionism; Economy Needs 'Global New Deal'

Article excerpt

Byline: David M. Dickson and Kara Rowland, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown implored Congress on Wednesday to resist the impulse to erect barriers to trade to protect industry from the economic hurricane raging around the world.

Mr. Brown told a rare joint session of Congress that a global New Deal is needed to energize the world's tattered free markets and called for uniform international rules to stabilize the banking industry.

He also called on the United States to help the world fight climate change and emphasized the special relationship between America and Britain, pledging continued support to combat terrorism.

With less than a month before he will host the Group of 20 economic summit in London, Mr. Brown devoted most of his speech to the global economic crisis.

An economic hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and confidence, Mr. Brown told Congress, where members of both parties have become more skeptical of the world trading system.

So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one? No, the prime minister said. We should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us.

Free-trade advocates were pleased.

I'm delighted he said that, said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

It suggests that the anti-protectionism theme will get important billing in London next month. Protectionist smoke is fairly serious now, and Mr. Brown is trying to dampen it down, Mr. Hufbauer said.

In European capitals, fear has been rising about President Obama's ability to resist growing protectionist tendencies in Congress, especially among Democrats.

Trading partners detected budding protectionism when Congress inserted a Buy American provision into last month's stimulus legislation.

The Buy American version in the House received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee. An even more stringent Buy American provision percolated in the Senate. But the stimulus bill the president signed into law last month required the Buy American provision to be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements - a condition embraced by the White House during the legislative process. …