British PM says world hit by 'economic hurricane'

Brown went on to predict that the world economy would double in the next two decades.

Gordon Brown 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gordon Brown 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that an "economic hurricane" has swept the world and warned US leaders against viewing the crisis as isolated to America's borders. In a formal address to Congress, Brown said that resorting to protectionism would make every nation vulnerable. "Should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no-one?" he said. "No. We should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us." Brown addressed a joint meeting of Congress, an honor reserved for America's closest allies, and was met by the lawmakers with pomp and enthusiasm. Despite the gloomy global economic outlook, the prime minister conveyed optimism, pointing to future opportunity. "We should have the confidence- America and Britain most of all- that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us," he said. He predicted that the world economy would double in the next two decades. Brown's remarks come as he is looking for a boost to his own political fortunes. In hard political times at home, Brown hopes to benefit from his earlier meeting with the new American president and to demonstrate British leadership at a time of economic uncertainty. He was facing a US Congress deeply divided on how to solve America's economic crisis, with Republicans sparring with President Barack Obama on whether government intervention and money can salvage financial markets. Brown called on the House and Senate leaders to "seize the moment" because international leaders were willing more than ever to work together. "Just think how each of our actions, if combined, could mean a whole, much greater than the sum of the parts," Brown 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 said the United States would be able to work with the most pro-American European leadership in recent memory, a leadership that wants to cooperate more closely in order to be a stronger partner. Brown was addressing Congress a day after he became the first European leader to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. Brown's speech to a joint meeting of Congress was a useful stage for the British leader, who is seeking a boost at home from his US visit. On Tuesday, Obama and Brown looked to coordinate US and British approaches to fix the world economy. The two leaders sat down in the Oval Office for about an hour and shared a working lunch afterward in the White House residence. It was their third meeting, although their first since Obama became president in January. Brown came to Washington hoping to reach agreement with Obama on a pact to take into the G-20 summit next month. Brown wants the same banking standards governing transparency, disclosure, accountability and other issues that apply in the United States and Britain to apply to institutions in other nations, particularly those in areas like Eastern Europe and Latin America. For Brown, who has been falling significantly behind the conservative opposition in British opinion polls, the Washington visit presented a big opportunity. With his political fortunes in doubt, the British leader hoped that standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his much more popular American counterpart would give him a lift.