U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said American foreign aid should promote trade and free enterprise that can spur enduring benefits far in excess of the funds invested. Romney spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, headed by former president Bill Clinton.
An hour before President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly, his Republican challenger spoke at a different international gathering and provided a glimpse of his vision for the world at large and America’s role in shaping it. Mitt Romney said decades of U.S. generosity have not yielded intended results.
“Too often our passion for charity is tempered by our sense that our aid is not always effective," Romney said. "We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments. We wonder why years of aid and relief seem never to extinguish the hardship, why the suffering persists decade after decade.”
Romney said American foreign aid must foster free trade and private enterprise, which he noted already comprise the bulk of revenue flows in most developing nations.
“The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise," he added. "Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America's own economy - free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.”
The Republican presidential hopeful outlined what he called “prosperity pacts” to remove barriers to investment, trade and entrepreneurship in developing nations in return for U.S. assistance packages designed to promote basic freedoms and the rule of law.
Moments later, at the United Nations, President Obama also touched on America’s global outreach, noting initiatives under way and progress made.
“America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations," Obama said. "New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent. New commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity.”
Obama also appeared at the Clinton Global Initiative, focusing his remarks on combating human trafficking.
U.S. foreign aid includes military assistance, material and financial support for governmental and non-governmental institutions, global health care initiatives, developmental projects, and financing and support for entrepreneurs and enterprises in impoverished regions. It accounts for less than 2 percent of total federal spending.