Britain outlines 'agile' new foreign policy

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

British foreign policy under its new government will aim to "inspire others with our values of political freedom and economic liberalism", Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.

Hague also stressed the coalition government's desire to build stronger ties with emerging nations in southeast Asia, Latin America, the Gulf and Africa, while insisting the US would remain "our most important relationship."

With Britain facing a tight spending squeeze as it battles to cut a record deficit, he insisted that such goals were affordable and required "more effective use" of existing resources.

Hague's comments came in his first major speech since David Cameron's government took office in May, before an audience of diplomats and journalists at the Foreign Office in London.

He called for an "agile and energetic" British foreign policy including improved bilateral relationships.

"What I call our enlightened national interest requires a foreign policy that is ambitious in what it can achieve for others as well as ourselves, that is inspired by and seeks to inspire others with our values of political freedom and economic liberalism, that is resolute in its support for those around the world who are striving to free themselves through their own efforts from poverty or political fetters," he said.

"It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience or to repudiate our obligation to help those less fortunate.

"Our foreign policy should always have consistent support for human rights and poverty reduction at its irreducible core and we should always strive to act with moral authority, recognising that once that is damaged it is hard to restore."

Britain's image in some parts of the world was damaged in recent years by its involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which the country joined under the Labour administration of Tony Blair, who was replaced in 2007 by Gordon Brown.

Blair's first foreign secretary Robin Cook vowed to pursue an "ethical dimension" to foreign policy when that government took office in 1997.

Some experts questioned whether Hague's vision was new, and whether British foreign policy could really change radically under the current economic circumstances.

George Walden, a former diplomat and Conservative lawmaker told BBC radio: "The trouble with making speeches on foreign policy is that very often, you're sculpting air.

"In present circumstances where the economic air is very thin, the speeches can become even thinner."

© 2010 AFP

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