Romney lays out vision for private sector-infused foreign aid

/ Source: NBC News

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday laid out his vision for the future of foreign aid, one tied closely to his domestic policy prescriptions which promote the power of free enterprise and of hard work to lift people out of poverty.

In an address to one of the nation's pre-eminent philanthropic groups, the Clinton Global Initiative (the namesake group of former President Bill Clinton), Romney outlined a foreign aid strategy that would emphasize public and private partnerships to boost the economies of developing nations.

"For American foreign aid to become more effective, its got to embrace the principles that you see in these global initiatives," Romney said, referring to his host, the Clinton Global Initiative's annual conference. "The power of partnerships, access the transformative nature of free enterprise, and leverage of the abundant resources that can come from the private sector."

Romney then outlined his views on foreign aid, which he said should be tied to the opening of markets in developing nations. The GOP presidential candidate argued that foreign aid — coming from either government or private investments -- should be focused on developing long-term economic opportunity so that the money that is spent has a better chance of making a lasting difference.

"A temporary aid package can give an economy a boost. It can fund projects. It can pay some bills. It can employ some people for a time," Romney said. "But it can’t sustain an economy — not for the long term. It can’t pull the whole cart, if you will — because at some point, the money runs out.

The former private equity CEO then debuted a new model of public and private development in his speech, which he referred to as "Prosperity Pacts."

"To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and in other developing countries, I will initiate something I'll call 'Prosperity Pacts.' Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurship and entrepreneurialism in developing nations," Romney said. "In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights."

"We will focus our efforts on small and medium-size businesses. Microfinance has been an effective tool at promoting enterprise and prosperity, but we've got to expand support to small and medium-size businesses that are oftentimes too large for microfinance, but too small for traditional banking," he continued.

The 20-minute speech by the GOP challenger to President Barack Obama marked perhaps his most detailed presentation of how the United States might interact with the developing world in a Romney administration. It came just hours before Obama was set to address the United Nations general assembly across midtown Manhattan, in a stretch of campaigning in which foreign policy has supplanted the economy as the election's driving force.

Romney was introduced in his remarks by former Clinton, who has assumed an outsized role in the presidential race in recent weeks, as the Romney campaign elevated the former president in an effort to paint Obama as too liberal and far outside the centrist Clinton tradition. Clinton only turned about to offer an outspoken defense of Obama at the Democratic National Convention, a stirring speech which many analysts credit for boosting Obama's poll numbers immediately thereafter.

Taking the podium, Romney joked about his host's warm introduction.

"If there's one thing we've learned in this election season by the way, its that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good," Romney deadpanned, continuing as the laughter in the room subsided. "All I've gotta do now is wait a couple of days for that bounce to happen."