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Romney calls for a broad rethink of foreign aid

Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday to shift foreign aid toward the private sector and deprioritize humanitarian aid in favor of promoting free enterprise and business development around the world. In remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney laid out his most detailed proposals on foreign aid thus far, including his plan to move foreign aid to ...

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday to shift foreign aid toward the private sector and deprioritize humanitarian aid in favor of promoting free enterprise and business development around the world.

In remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney laid out his most detailed proposals on foreign aid thus far, including his plan to move foreign aid to rely more on public-private partnerships that enlist American corporations to the cause of helping the developing world.

Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday to shift foreign aid toward the private sector and deprioritize humanitarian aid in favor of promoting free enterprise and business development around the world.

In remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney laid out his most detailed proposals on foreign aid thus far, including his plan to move foreign aid to rely more on public-private partnerships that enlist American corporations to the cause of helping the developing world.

"Free enterprise has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system not only because it is the only system that creates a prosperous middle class, but also because it is the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her own life. Free enterprise cannot only make us better off financially, it can make us better people," Romney said.

He said that America was a compassionate nation but that Americans wonder why foreign aid often falls victim to corruption and doesn’t seem to solve the problems of the developing world. Romney believes that is because the private sector is now playing a much larger role in the developing world than foreign governments.

"If foreign aid can leverage this massive investment by private enterprise, it may exponentially expand the ability to not only care for those who suffer, but also to change lives," Romney said. "For American foreign aid to become more effective, it must embrace the power of partnerships, access the transformative nature of free enterprise, and leverage the abundant resources that can come from the private sector."

Romney then said he would lower the priority of foreign aid as a means to address humanitarian needs, such as health, as well as foreign aid as a means to promote U.S. strategic interests. He said the foreign aid goal that will receive "more attention and a much higher priority" if he is elected would be "aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and in nations."

Romney invoked the name of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, "the street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring," and said his protest was based on his desire to work to provide for his family.

"Work. That must be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike," Romney said. "Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding. Work will not long tolerate corruption nor quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women."

A Romney administration would initiate "Prosperity Pacts" through which the U.S. government would work with the private sector to eliminate trade and investment barriers in developing nations in exchange for U.S. aid packages that focus on "developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights," he said.

"The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise," said Romney. "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."

"I’ve laid out a new approach for a new era," he said. "We’ll couple aid with trade and private investment to empower individuals, encourage innovators, and reward entrepreneurs."

Romney started his speech with a joke about Clinton’s speech endorsing President Barack Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

"If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season, it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good," Romney said. "After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce."

Note: The headline on this story has been changed to better reflect Romney’s proposals.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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