Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney advocated for a foreign aid policy based on free enterprise, with the promotion of jobs abroad at its core, at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York on Tuesday.
The annual Clinton meeting, which runs parallel to the United Nations General Assembly, features panels on global economic development, food security and volunteerism.
But with the U.S. presidential elections looming in November, the meeting has taken on a uniquely political feel this year.
"For American foreign aid to become more effective, it's got to embrace the principles that you see in these global [public-private] initiatives - power in partnerships, access to the transformative nature of free enterprise and the leverage of the abundant resources that can come with the private sector," Romney said Tuesday morning.
Romney took time to praise the "Clinton bump" received by candidates he supports while also criticizing the current president's foreign policy in the Middle East.
"We somehow feel we are at the mercy of events instead of shaping events" in the Middle East, Romney added, saying rioting and anti-American anger in the Muslim-majority world is worsened by youth unemployment.
"I just want to work. I just want to work," Romney said Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who sparked the Arab Spring, said the day he self-immolated. "Work - that has to be at the heart of our effort to build economies to create jobs."
"Work builds self-esteem. It transforms lives from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding," Romney added. We need to create an "assistance program that helps unleash free enterprise...A Reagan-economic zone."
Romney spoke just before President Barack Obama was slated to speak on the floor of the UN General Assembly. Obama will speak at the CGI later on Tuesday.
by Lauren McGaughy
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