Kerry defends US foreign policy spending

Updated: 2013-02-21 11:34

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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 Kerry defends US foreign policy spending

US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered his first foreign policy speech on Wednesday in Old Cabel Hall at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He urged Americans to support diplomacy. Steve Helber / Associated Press

John Kerry used his first public speech as US secretary of state on Wednesday to urge Americans' support for diplomacy, saying that automatic cuts to the federal budget would hurt the country at home and abroad.

"I came here purposefully to underscore that in today's global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy," he told a packed auditorium at the University of Virginia, founded by the first US secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson.

Kerry cited a number of diplomacy's benefits for the United States, including trade, jobs, peace and the spread of American values.

"Before (Richard) Nixon's bold opening with China, no one could have imagined that today it would be our second-largest trading partner, but that's exactly what's happened," he said, referring to the then-president's historic 1972 trip.

Less than three weeks after taking the oath as America's top diplomat, Kerry defended the need for foreign aid even in the face of budgetary pressures. The former senator from Massachusetts urged his ex-colleagues in Congress to reach a budget deal with President Barack Obama to avoid the automatic implementation on March 1 of spending cuts across nearly the entire US government, known as sequestration.

"Foreign assistance is not a giveaway; it is not charity. It's an investment in a strong America and a free world," he said, later warning against "senseless" reductions in State Department funding.

"Eleven of our top 15 trading partners used to be the beneficiaries of US foreign assistance. That's because our goal isn't to keep a nation dependent on us forever. It's precisely to create these markets, to open these opportunities, to establish rule of law.

"Our goal is to use assistance and development to help nations realize their own potential, develop their own ability to govern and become our economic partners."

Kerry, as State Department officials often do, pointed out that despite public perception that the figure is much higher, overall US spending on foreign affairs is just over 1 percent of the national budget.

"Deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow," he said. "We need to remember that."

He said the free trade talks that Obama announced last week between the US and the European Union would form the world's biggest bilateral trade relationship.

"Our work is far from over," Kerry said. "Seven of the 10 fastest-growing countries are on the African continent. And China, understanding that, is already investing more than we do there."

"We have to keep going. We can't afford the kind of delay and disruption that stands on the horizon in Washington," he said, referring to the ongoing talks over sequestration.

According to the State Department, the cuts - authorized by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011 -would jeopardize $2.6 billion in foreign aid, security assistance and other international programs.

Kerry made his speech just four days before he embarks on his first trip abroad as secretary. His Feb 24-March 6 travels cover nine countries in Europe and the Middle East, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday.

The Obama cabinet official will fly first to London and then Berlin, where he lived as a child. In Paris, Kerry and French officials will discuss the Islamist insurgency in Mali. He is then scheduled to visit Rome for multilateral meetings on Syria as well as a meeting with leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. That will be followed by trips to Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before Kerry winds up his travels in Qatar for talks on bilateral and regional issues.

"He is characterizing this first trip more broadly as a listening tour," Nuland said.

Analysts said that, unlike Hillary Clinton's first trip as secretary of state - to Japan, the Republic of Korea, China and Indonesia - Kerry by visiting Europe hopes to assure US allies on the continent of their importance. Some said Kerry hasn't been enthusiastic about the policy of the US "pivot" toward Asia, especially its military component.

Despite earlier media reports, a visit to Israel isn't on Kerry's itinerary. The secretary will visit Israel on a separate trip with Obama later in March, Nuland told reporters.

(China Daily 02/21/2013 page1)