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Mitt Romney: Foreign aid needs an overhaul

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 4:31 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at American Spring Wire, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, in Bedford Heights, Ohio.   (David Richard, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at American Spring Wire, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, in Bedford Heights, Ohio. (David Richard, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

NEW YORK — Mitt Romney outlined his plan to foster work opportunities and economic growth in developing nations Wednesday during his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

After a warm introduction by President Bill Clinton, Romney talked about his desire to use "free market initiatives to encourage lasting change in the Middle East and other developing regions," reported Ashley Parker for the New York Times.

His model, which he calls “a new approach for a new era,” echoes the domestic policy themes of his campaign, according to the Washington Post. Under Romney's plan, the government’s foreign aid would be more closely linked to trade policies as well as private investment and corporate partnerships, which he said will “empower individuals, encourage innovators and reward entrepreneurs.”

“A temporary aid package can give an economy a boost ... but it can’t sustain an economy — not for the long term,” said Romney during his 17-minute speech. “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, and that is that free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation."

Romney won praise for his delivery from Jonathan Cohn of New Republic. Cohn called Romney's speech "noteworthy, because it was so different from the tone [he] has adopted on the campaign trail." Romney was patient, soft-spoken and funny, wrote Cohn, referring to a joke Romney made after being introduced by Clinton. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season," Romney said, "it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good. After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce.”

Other critics suggested that while many in the international aid community agree with the substance of what Romney said, his comments are awkward given the fact that his party has repeatedly criticized, cut and threatened to cut economic assistance to Middle Eastern societies, "including support for business and public-private partnerships," wrote Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, on the group's blog Democracy Arsenal. "In particular, one wonders whether he knows that his running mate Paul Ryan’s budget would cut spending on foreign aid by 10 percent."

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